STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

Michael's death toll rises to 17, including 8 in Florida

The devastation left by Hurricane Michael in several states is still coming into focus, with coastal Florida...

Posted: Oct 14, 2018 9:41 AM
Updated: Oct 14, 2018 9:41 AM

The devastation left by Hurricane Michael in several states is still coming into focus, with coastal Florida cities destroyed beyond recognition, and homes, businesses and agriculture torn or swamped from Georgia to Virginia.

More than 1 million customers were left without electricity, and emergency officials have no access to many towns. The US death toll has risen to at least 17 -- including five in Virginia and eight in Florida -- and it's expected to climb.

Accidents, disasters and safety

Air pollution

Business and industry sectors

Business, economy and trade

Climate change

Continents and regions

Energy and environment

Energy and utilities

Environment and natural resources

Floods and flooding

Florida

Greenhouse gases

Hurricane Florence

Hurricane Michael

Hurricanes

Natural disasters

North America

North Carolina

Pollution

Severe weather

Southeastern United States

The Americas

Tropical storms

United States

Virginia

Weather

Deaths and fatalities

Society

Georgia

Beaches

Destinations and attractions

Latin America

Mexico

Points of interest

Coastal areas

Landforms and ecosystems

Bill Nelson

Brock Long

Federal Emergency Management Agency

Government and public administration

Government bodies and offices

Government organizations - US

Political Figures - US

US Department of Homeland Security

US federal departments and agencies

US federal government

"I expect the fatality count to rise today and tomorrow as we get through the debris," Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Brock Long said Friday morning.

Michael, which smacked Florida's Panhandle as one of the most powerful hurricanes to hit the United States, left Virginia's coast as a post-tropical low early Friday -- and its trail of destruction will take weeks to take into account.

Sen. Bill Nelson called the devastation left by Michael "the worst destruction that the Panhandle has seen for however long that I've been living. It's akin to Hurricane Andrew in 1992 where everything was leveled."

Aerial footage shows coastal cities in the Panhandle, like Mexico Beach, wiped out. Search teams used dogs as they combed the area for people killed or trapped in debris.

One death was reported in Mexico Beach -- that of an elderly man found alone, Mayor Al Cathey said. The man's name has not been released, but authorities said his body was found several hundred yards away from his home.

City manager Tanya Castro said Mexico Beach won't be up and running for 12 to 18 months.

Nelson said there are not enough resources -- food, shelter and water -- for those in Mexico Beach who stayed and for those residents returning. In Panama City, he said "there's going to be a period of time that it's difficult to get supplies in."

Dawn Vickers rode out the storm in Mexico Beach, but her house and vehicles were demolished. Without cell phone service or transportation, she has been taking shelter in one of the few condos left standing, invited by someone she met at what's left of a gas station.

"This has been the worst nightmare I've ever been through in my life," she told CNN on Friday.

A psychiatric hospital in Florida is isolated after downed trees blocked roads around Chattahoochee, and a tree caused a water line to break. The facility is running on power generators, and helicopters have delivered food and water, the state's Department of Children and Families said.

Key developments

• No electricity: At least 1.15 million customers in seven states are without power, including 383,000 in Virginia, 365,000 in North Carolina and 301,613 in Florida.

• 17 killed: Eight people have died in Florida, including three fatalities announced Friday in Jackson County, north of Apalachicola. One of those deaths was due to debris, authorities said, and circumstances of the other two deaths were not immediately known. Five people died in Virginia. Four of those drowned, and the fifth was a firefighter who died in a storm-related crash on Interstate 295 in Hanover County, officials said. Three people in North Carolina and a child in Georgia also died.

• Severe crop damage: Georgia officials are receiving reports of damage to pecan, cotton, vegetable and peanut crops. "For me the cotton crop is as bad as it gets. I was picking three bale cotton (this week); today it is gone," cotton farmer and state Rep. Clay Pirkle said. "Can't tell the difference between what I've picked and what I haven't."

• Poultry industry: Georgia's Department of Agriculture said it received reports that 84 chicken houses -- estimated to hold more than 2 million chickens -- were destroyed in the storm.

• Public health emergency declared in Georgia: The move will help ensure those who rely on Medicare and Medicaid have access to the care they need, US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said.

Flooding in the Carolinas and Virginia

The rapid-moving rainfall from Michael triggered flash floods in parts of Virginia and the Carolinas, including areas threatened by swollen rivers during Hurricane Florence.

Hundreds of residents were rescued Thursday from cars, apartments and homes flooded by rushing water.

President Donald Trump tweeted his sympathy for people affected by the storm, saying, "People have no idea how hard Hurricane Michael has hit the great state of Georgia. I will be visiting both Florida and Georgia early next week. We are working very hard on every area and every state that was hit - we are with you!"

In Virginia, the Roanoke River jumped its banks and flooded nearby homes and businesses. Cory Patirlo, who lives near the river, said the impact was unexpected. It was the first time he had nearly 2 feet of water in his home.

"It wasn't going to get this high, realistically. It never has," he told CNN affiliate WDBJ.

"I'm gonna be sleeping in my van, with my dogs."

Video that Trina Lockhart posted on Twitter showed drivers making their way cautiously though a flooded Roanoke street Thursday afternoon.

In the southern Virginia city of Danville, floodwaters turned the Grove Park neighborhood into a virtual lake Thursday, and firefighters checked on a nearly submerged car, photos taken by Jim Heffinger show.

The water receded within hours in some areas, and cleanup was underway Friday. Some people are expected to remain in shelters through the weekend as river levels go down.

In North Carolina, Gov. Roy Cooper said first responders rescued nearly 100 people and evacuated many more this week in the face of flash flooding.

Fallen trees have left hundreds of primary and secondary roads closed, he said.

Florida residents return to broken homes

Thousands of residents in the Florida Panhandle are slowly returning to their homes and discovering that everything or almost everything they owned has been reduced to rubble.

Linda Clarke gasped repeatedly at the sight of her once new home in Shell Point Beach -- now severely damaged.

"But you know what ... it's just stuff, it's just stuff," she told her husband, Raoul, as they walked through the ruins. "It's just stuff we can replace."

There is not much left of what used to be the parish hall of St. Dominic Catholic Church in Panama City. Despite the destruction, the Rev. Luke Farabaugh and his congregation celebrated Mass on Thursday.

"Things, we can replace," Farabaugh said on CNN's "Erin Burnett OutFront." "We've seen a lot of signs of hope. ... I've been telling people ... to have hope.

"Hope is that even if the storm does come, even if I lose my car, my house, my family, even if I lose my life, blessed be God," he said. "Our reward isn't just in this life but in the life to come. So we're just trying to give people hope at this point."

In Mexico Beach, Councilwoman Linda Albrecht learned through online news video that her home was gone.

"Everything in my house, it was almost like it was pushed back with a bulldozer," she said

"Mexico Beach needs your prayers," Albrecht said of the town of about 1,200 people. "It's not the Mexico Beach we know."

But there are signs of recovery.

Delta Airlines said it resumed all operations at airports impacted by Hurricane Michael, including Panama City Airport.

The City of Tallahassee reported that 90% of the traffic lights in the city were back online Friday and that power had been restored to 38,000 customers.

Several businesses in the city have reopened, including Walmart, Target and various gas stations.

On St. George Island, a 28-mile-long and 1-mile-wide island off the Panhandle, a few dozen people didn't evacuate and as the storm raged, those who stayed were surrounded by oncoming water. Security camera video shows water creating its own current in the streets of one neighborhood.

"There were a few points and times when I thought it could happen, that I could die," said Tiara Walker, who stayed in an apartment on the island. "There was a point in time where I thought the roof was going to fly away, so I flipped a couch over and just tried to prepare for the worst situation."

'A freak accident'

Sarah Radney saw trees falling down all around her grandparents' home when Hurricane Michael roared over Georgia. She was safe until a carport came crashing through the roof, killing her.

"It was just a freak accident, I never heard of anything like that," said her father, Roy Radney.

Sarah, 11, had just started the sixth grade and joined the drama club and the band. Her father says she loved playing the trumpet, acting and singing.

A man who died when a tree fell on a home near Greensboro, Florida, has been identified as Steven Sweet, 44, according to Lt. Anglie Hightower, the spokeswoman for the Gadsden County Sheriff's Office. CNN's Anderson Cooper said Friday on "AC360" that Sweet managed a local car dealership. His wife, Gayle Sweet, was with him when he died.

"He's one of a kind, so kind he'll help anybody. Always giving money to people at the stop sign and stuff. He would help anybody," Gayle Sweet said of her husband.

Three others died in Gadsden County, Hightower said. Authorities did not discuss the circumstances of their deaths, but their bodies have been taken to the medical examiner's office to determine the cause of death.

In North Carolina, a 38-year-old man died when a large tree fell on his vehicle Thursday on US 64 east of Statesville, Iredell County Fire Marshal David Souther said.

Cooper also said Friday that firefighter Lt. Brad Clark, 43, was killed when a tractor trailer lost control on a rainy highway and hit his truck in Hanover County, Virginia. A colleague said he loved the military, loved his family and loved the fire service dearly.

Two people also were killed Thursday night in Marion, North Carolina, when their vehicle struck a tree that had fallen because of high winds, said Adrienne Jones, deputy director for the McDowell County Emergency Medical Services.

In Nottoway County, Virginia, state police and local authorities were searching for a missing motorist, said Jeffrey Stern, the director of the Virginia Department of Emergency Management Agency. Virginia State Police Superintendent Col. Gary Settle said crews recovered a vehicle but not the person known to be in it.

Hundreds of people have been rescued from the debris, and authorities fear the toll could climb higher as search-and-rescue efforts continue.

Lack of resources

Sen. Nelson said Friday on "AC360" that Mexico Beach does not not have enough shelters, water or food.

Nelson said Panama City was "a city in the dark." A cavalry of utility trucks arrived Friday in Bay County, Florida, according to post from the Panama City Beach Government Facebook page.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency approved individual assistance families in for Jackson, Liberty, Calhoun and Gadsden counties Friday according to a press release from Florida Gov. Rick Scott's office.

The approval expands the individual assistance program — the original major disaster declaration made individual assistance available in five Florida counties: Bay, Franklin, Gulf, Taylor, Wakulla.

Jackson County Emergency Management Director Rodney Andreassen said the county is hoping to get two or three trailers worth of food and water from FEMA but had not yet received them.

A distribution center set up at a Walmart in Jackson County handed out food for a few hours Friday and will be open again Saturday. A Red Cross shelter with food and water has also been set up at Marianna High School

The impact of climate change on storms

Michael's strength may reflect the effect of climate change on storms. The planet has warmed significantly over the past several decades, causing changes in the environment.

Human-caused greenhouse gases in the atmosphere create an energy imbalance, with more than 90% of remaining heat trapped by the gases going into the oceans, according to the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration.

While we might not get more storms in a warmer climate, most studies show storms will get stronger and produce more rain. Storm surge is worse now than it was 100 years ago, thanks to the rise in sea levels.

And unless the rate of greenhouse gas emissions changes, hurricanes are expected to intensify more rapidly in the coming decades, the scientific research group Climate Central said.

Get the latest delivered to your inbox: Sign up for storm email alerts here.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story gave the incorrect surname for storm victim Steven Sweet. It has been corrected.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 8 p.m. ET)

Confirmed Cases: 32078

Reported Deaths: 2004
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion9268539
Lake3320168
Cass15826
Allen130966
St. Joseph120534
Hendricks113067
Hamilton111592
Johnson1086104
Elkhart105728
Madison58258
Porter49021
Bartholomew48133
Clark46138
LaPorte41522
Tippecanoe3753
Jackson3671
Howard36519
Delaware35735
Hancock32127
Shelby31521
Floyd31438
Boone28835
Morgan26224
Vanderburgh2482
Montgomery23117
White2268
Decatur22431
Clinton2221
Grant19121
Noble18921
Harrison18721
Dubois1852
Greene16724
Warrick16426
Dearborn16421
Henry1619
Monroe16011
Vigo1477
Lawrence14423
Miami1391
Putnam1337
Jennings1274
Orange12422
Scott1183
Ripley1126
Franklin1068
Kosciusko941
Carroll922
Daviess8216
Steuben802
Marshall761
Newton7410
Wabash722
Wayne715
Fayette684
LaGrange602
Jasper581
Washington521
Fulton471
Rush452
Jay440
Randolph433
Jefferson411
Whitley402
Pulaski390
Clay391
Owen341
Brown331
Sullivan321
Starke313
DeKalb311
Perry260
Huntington262
Knox250
Tipton251
Benton250
Wells240
Crawford230
Blackford211
Switzerland190
Fountain182
Spencer171
Posey170
Parke170
Gibson142
Ohio130
Warren121
Adams121
Vermillion90
Martin90
Union80
Pike60
Unassigned0154

Illinois Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 7 p.m. CT)

Confirmed Cases: 113195

Reported Deaths: 4923
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Cook738193354
Lake7767250
DuPage7290340
Kane5866153
Will5238258
Winnebago199351
McHenry145268
St. Clair101773
Kankakee80242
Kendall72719
Rock Island63922
Champaign5697
Madison54056
Boone40716
Sangamon33226
DeKalb3313
Randolph2593
Jackson22810
McLean21210
Stephenson1952
Ogle1922
Macon18819
Peoria1858
Clinton17816
Out of IL1771
Union1417
LaSalle14013
Whiteside13310
Iroquois1314
Unassigned1200
Coles1159
Warren1140
Jefferson10116
Knox950
Monroe9211
Grundy892
McDonough835
Lee761
Tazewell683
Cass670
Henry670
Williamson541
Marion500
Jasper457
Adams441
Macoupin421
Perry410
Pulaski400
Montgomery391
Vermilion391
Morgan341
Christian334
Livingston312
Douglas280
Jo Daviess270
Fayette203
Ford201
Jersey201
Washington180
Woodford182
Mason170
Menard170
Shelby161
Bureau151
Hancock150
Mercer150
Carroll132
Franklin120
Piatt120
Crawford110
Fulton110
Bond101
Brown100
Clark100
Cumberland100
Logan100
Moultrie100
Schuyler100
Wayne91
Alexander80
Henderson80
Johnson70
Massac70
Saline70
Effingham61
Greene50
Marshall50
De Witt40
Lawrence40
Richland30
Stark30
Clay20
Edwards20
Gallatin20
Hamilton20
Wabash20
White20
Calhoun10
Hardin10
Pike10
Pope10
Putnam10
Edgar00
Terre Haute
Clear
66° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 66°
Robinson
Clear
67° wxIcon
Hi: 76° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 67°
Indianapolis
Broken Clouds
69° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 69°
Rockville
Clear
62° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 62°
Casey
Clear
66° wxIcon
Hi: 76° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 66°
Brazil
Clear
66° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 66°
Marshall
Clear
66° wxIcon
Hi: 78° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 66°
Showers Likely
WTHI Planner
WTHI Temps
WTHI Radar

WTHI Events