UPDATES: Nearly 200 rescued in Florida after Hurricane Michael
Category 4 storm strikes Florida with 155 mph winds
ORLANDO, Fla. – Here's the latest on the aftermath of Hurricane Michael.
The storm struck Florida as a Category 4 hurricane packing 155 mph winds, causing massive destruction.
As of Friday morning, Michael was a post-tropical cyclone off the coast of Virginia. The storm is expected to continue on a trek to the east over the Atlantic.
The Internal Revenue Service says victims of Hurricane Michael will get a grace period before having to file some tax returns and payments.
The IRS said Friday it's offering the relief in parts of Florida and other regions that may be added later to the disaster area as designated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Individuals who had a valid extension to Oct. 15 for filing their 2017 return now will have until Feb. 28, 2019, to file. Because tax payments related to the 2017 returns were due on April 18, however, those payments don't qualify for relief.
The new Feb. 28 deadline also applies to quarterly estimated income-tax payments normally due on Jan. 15, 2019, and to quarterly payroll and excise tax returns due on Oct. 31, 2018 and Jan. 31, 2019. The IRS says it will automatically provide relief for people with addresses in the counties designated a disaster area.
Taxpayers who qualify for relief but live outside the disaster area can call the IRS at 866-562-5227.
Florida emergency officials say they have rescued nearly 200 people and checked 25,000 structures since Hurricane Michael battered the state this week.
In a briefing at the state emergency operations center in Tallahassee on Friday evening, authorities said they had wrapped up their initial rapid searches and had begun more-intense searches including inspecting collapsed buildings.
The officials say they've completed 40 percent of these "secondary" searches and hope to finish up during daylight hours on Saturday.
Police in Virginia have identified another person who died after Tropical Storm Michael blew through the state on its way out to sea.
Danville police said in a statement on Friday that 60-year-old Jennifer Bjarnesen Mitchell of Danville died Thursday evening. Police said floodwaters had stranded and then overcome her vehicle.
She was the second person to die in Danville during the flooding. Police say that earlier that day, 53-year-old William Lynn Tanksley died after being swept away from his vehicle.
Virginia State Police said Friday that there have been five deaths in the state connected to Michael. They include a firefighter who was struck and killed by a truck outside Richmond.
After moving offshore in recent weeks, a toxic algae bloom has returned to the beaches of the Tampa area, blown in from Hurricane Michael.
Measurements posted by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission on its red tide website showed high concentrations off some Pinellas County, Florida, beaches on Thursday.
Residents were hoping the hurricane would have the opposite effect and blow it farther offshore.
Red tide in the Gulf of Mexico off southwest Florida began last October after Hurricane Irma ravaged the state.
It has killed massive amounts of marine life and caused respiratory irritations in people. The bloom has spread to Florida's Panhandle and the Miami area.
An official leading search-and-rescue efforts in one of the Florida communities hit hardest by Hurricane Michael says searchers have found bodies.
Joseph Zahralban is Miami's fire chief. On Friday, he was in Mexico Beach on the Gulf Coast acting as a task force leader for a search-and-rescue unit. He told The Associated Press that searchers found "individuals who are deceased" among the devastation in Mexico Beach and surrounding Bay County.
He says officials don't yet have a count of the dead and are working to ID them. He gave no further details.
Zahralban says teams on their first sweep of Mexico Beach on Thursday rescued some people with minor injuries and helped others who rode out the storm and found themselves with no way to leave.
Oil and gas workers are returning to drilling rigs and production platforms in the Gulf of Mexico, but production remains down by about one-third as operations are restarted.
The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement said in a report Friday that 32.4 percent of oil production and a little more than 13 percent of natural gas production in the Gulf remained shut down. The agency bases its estimates on daily reports from operators.
The bureau says workers remained evacuated from only nine of the 687 staffed platforms in the Gulf, and that all unmoored rigs that were moved as the storm approached have returned to their drilling spots.
The Walt Disney Co. is donating $1 million for relief efforts to areas devastated by Hurricane Michael.
The company said Friday in a news release that the money will be funneled through the Florida Disaster Fund.
The news release also says contributions from employees to eligible relief groups will be matched dollar-for-dollar through a matching gifts program.
Disney has a 70,000-person workforce in Florida at its Walt Disney World theme park resort in the Orlando area.
President Donald Trump says he'll visit Florida and Georgia early next week to assess damage from Hurricane Michael.
Trump announced his plans on Twitter on Friday but didn't say what day he'll visit the affected areas.
Trump also tweeted that "people have no idea how hard Hurricane Michael has hit the great state of Georgia."
Michael struck the Florida Panhandle as a Category 4 hurricane earlier this week. One of the hardest-hit spots in Florida is Mexico Beach, where entire blocks of homes have been destroyed. The storm then raced through Georgia, the Carolinas and on to Virginia.
Trump says the administration is "working very hard on every area and every state that was hit."
He adds: "We are with you!"
President Donald Trump tweeted Friday that he will visit Florida next week after Hurricane Michael devastated the region.
"I will be visiting both Florida and Georgia early next week," he tweeted. "We are working very hard on every area and every state that was hit - we are with you!"
As of Friday afternoon, Michael was cited in at least 13 deaths.
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!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 12, 2018
Authorities in Virginia say the death toll there from the remnants of Hurricane Michael could rise as they continue searching for a missing motorist and another person who was swept away by floodwaters.
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam told news reporters Friday that five people died Thursday as torrential rain and high winds swept through the state.
Police said they recovered a vehicle in Nottoway County, but were still searching for its driver Friday and are not sure if the driver got out safely or was swept away by flood waters. In Charlotte County, crews were still looking for a grandmother who was swept away by rushing water. The county administrator said she is presumed dead.
State officials said about 432,000 people were still without power Friday afternoon, down from about 565,000 at the height of the storm.
North Carolina authorities say a car smashed into a tree felled by Hurricane Michael, killing two people and bringing the total death toll from the storm to 13.
McDowell County Emergency Management Director William Kehle says the accident happened about 7:30 p.m. Thursday in Marion, located in mountainous McDowell County.
State emergency management spokesman Keith Acree said the 64-year-old woman was pronounced dead at the scene. The man died after being airlifted to a hospital. His age was not immediately released.
Authorities say the death toll in the state now stands at three.
U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Brock Long says he expects the death toll from Hurricane Michael to climb because teams haven't gotten to the hardest-hit areas in Florida.
Long said Friday that he's worried people didn't evacuate along Mexico Beach or from other devastated locations and may not have survived.
Long said "very few people" live to tell what it's like to experience a high storm surge. The waters rose about 14 feet (4 meters), pushing buildings aside.
The FEMA director says the country doesn't learn enough from past storms, and he's concerned that residents will suffer from "hurricane amnesia" when blue skies return.
He said it's critically important to heed evacuation warnings and to build their homes cautiously and have the proper flood and damage insurance necessary to live in hurricane zones.
Long said he'd be traveling to Florida this weekend.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott has opened up the governor's mansion in Tallahassee to state troopers on their way to areas hit hard by Hurricane Michael.
Scott and first lady Ann Scott had dinner on Thursday with 50 troopers, 35 of whom slept in cots inside the mansion.
The governor's office said it would continue to use the mansion as a shelter for law enforcement as "long as necessary."
Most of Florida's capital is without power, but the mansion has its own generators to provide electricity. The residence is located just north of the state Capitol.
Police in Virginia have identified another person who died after Tropical Storm Michael blew through the state.
Danville police said in a statement on Friday that 53-year-old William Lynn Tanksley died Thursday afternoon after being swept away by floodwaters.
Police said the Danville man was swept away from his vehicle at about 5 p.m. during a flash flood. His body is being transported to Roanoke for an autopsy.
Danville police said a second person died after his or her vehicle was stranded and then overcome by floodwaters after 10 p.m. Thursday. Police have not yet identified that person.
Virginia State Police said Friday that there have been five deaths in the state that related to Michael. They include a firefighter who was struck and killed by a truck outside Richmond.
North Carolina is cleaning up from Hurricane Michael, the second major storm to rip through the state in a month.
State emergency officials said Friday that utility and transportation workers were out restoring power to 460,000 homes and businesses and reopening about 360 roads largely blocked by trees, debris or power lines.
Gov. Roy Cooper urged the public to stay safe while damage is inspected and not to drive around road barriers. Many of the 40 deaths in North Carolina during Hurricane Florence were of drivers who got caught in floodwaters. There has been one storm-related death confirmed in the state from Michael.
Cooper planned later Friday to visit damaged areas in the mountains. The governor said it wasn't clear whether there was enough overall damage to qualify for federal aid to help with the cleanup. Congress already has approved $1 billion for North Carolina's response to Florence.
A Florida Senate debate between Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson and Republican Gov. Rick Scott has been postponed because of Hurricane Michael.
A CNN statement says the live debate planned for Tuesday night will be rescheduled for a later date. The statement says both campaigns agreed to the delay so the candidates can focus on response and recovery to the storm.
Florida's race between Nelson and Scott is closely watched around the country as a key battleground for control of the Senate.
Nelson and Scott have met so far in one debate, earlier this month on Telemundo51, which broadcast mainly on Spanish-language stations around Florida.
Florida state emergency officials say they've done an initial search of 80 percent of the area affected by Hurricane Michael, and found no sign of widespread deaths.
State officials said Friday that search and rescue units spread across a vast region stretching from the sea to the Georgia border to look for survivors from the deadly storm.
The rescue teams did what was described as a "hasty search" to look for either victims or survivors. Florida officials said they planned to use the people on the search and rescue teams to now help pass out food and water to people in severely damaged communities.
Distribution centers have been set up outside retailers such as Wal-Mart and Publix because there is no way right now to let survivors know where they can get supplies.
Some supplies are being brought in by trucks, but state officials said they're using helicopters to ferry in supplies to some coastal towns where roads aren't cleared.
Florida authorities have gotten thousands of calls asking about missing persons in the region hammered in Hurricane Michael, but so far no reports of widespread deaths.
State emergency officials said Friday morning that they have canceled, for now, plans to set up a temporary mortuary unit in the Panhandle. But they're still searching areas near the coast as well as counties near the Georgia border that were hit hard by Michael's catastrophic winds.
Gov. Rick Scott said that state officials still "do not know enough" about the fate of people who remained in the region to ride out the storm.
"We are not completely done, we are still getting down there," the governor added.
State officials said the high volume of phone calls from outside the disaster area could be due to the fact that vast swaths of the Panhandle remain without cellphone service.
Two Gulf Coast communities barely 20 miles apart saw drastically different sides of Hurricane Michael's fury.
Rex and Nancy Buzzett returned Thursday to their waterfront home in Port St. Joe to find several feet of storm surge had smashed through the windows, blown out the brick walls and spilled their belongings outside. Many of their neighbors' homes were gutted, too.
The town of Apalachicola sits just 20 miles (32 kilometers) to the west. But its historic 19th-century homes survived largely unscathed.
Floodwaters swamped Judy Stokowski's gift shop. But her home was undamaged. The golf cart she uses for guided tours even started up after weathering the storm.
Virginia State Police say a man was swept away from his vehicle and died as Michael lashed the state.
The death is among five storm-related fatalities confirmed Friday by the Virginia Department of Emergency Management.
A State Police news release says 45-year-old James E. King Jr. of Dry Fork, Va., was caught in his vehicle in a flash flood Thursday around 3:30 p.m.
A Pittsylvania County Sheriff's deputy and a local resident tried to rescue King, but the floodwaters were too deep and fast-moving.
Volunteer firefighters and the State Police later found his body downstream Thursday night.
Virginia authorities are providing more details about the death of a firefighter who was responding to a crash north of Richmond as Michael lashed the state.
The Hanover County Fire-EMS Department says Fire Lt. Brad Clark died at the scene when a tractor-trailer struck his fire engine at the scene of a two-vehicle crash around 9 p.m. Thursday.
The department said that the fire engine had its lights and other emergency equipment activated, but roads were slick and the storm conditions were heavy. The state medical examiner's office has ruled Clark's death among five storm-related fatalities in the state.
Authorities say two others in his crew were seriously injured. The truck driver had to be extricated and also suffered serious injuries.
With four other deaths confirmed in Virginia, the overall official death toll from Hurricane Michael is up to 11.
Virginia authorities have confirmed five storm-related deaths in the state.
Department of Emergency Management spokesman Jeff Caldwell told The Associated Press on Friday that four people drowned: three in the western part of the state and a fourth in central Virginia. He says a firefighter also was killed when a tractor-trailer slammed into his fire truck while he was responding to a two-car crash in heavy storm conditions.
Caldwell says there were five suspected tornadoes in the state, but they are still awaiting National Weather Service confirmation.
The commander of Tyndall Air Force Base says the "base took a beating" from Hurricane Michael and will require "extensive cleanup and repairs."
Col. Brian Laidlaw told the 3,600 airmen stationed at the base just east of Panama City that he won't ask them or their families to return until their safety is guaranteed. The base was evacuated in advance of the Category 4 storm that struck the Gulf Coast on Wednesday afternoon with 155 mph winds and a strong storm surge.
Laidlaw called the damage "catastrophic." Videos of the damaged base show roofs ripped off hangars and a fighter jet on display toppled onto the ground.
In his letter posted on the base's website, Laidlaw says crews need to clear trees from roads, repair power lines and "assess the structural integrity of our buildings" before anyone returns.
The National Hurricane Center has issued its final advisory on Michael, now a post-tropical cyclone speeding off over the Atlantic Ocean.
And, impressively, Michael's top sustained winds are growing again, to near 65 mph (100 kph) at 5 a.m., with forecasters saying it will grow stronger still.
It remains very large, with tropical storm-force winds extending outward up to 275 miles (445 kilometers) from its center. A gauge on one offshore buoy recorded a wind gust of nearly hurricane strength.
The Hurricane Center says threats to land are diminishing. There's a minor storm surge still along the North Carolina coast, gale-force winds may continue for a few more hours over the southern Chesapeake Bay area, and several inches of rain is expected from New Jersey up through Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Flash flooding may continue meanwhile in the Carolinas and mid-Atlantic states.
At least six deaths have been blamed on Michael, the most powerful hurricane to hit the continental U.S. in over 50 years.
The sheriff's office in Gadsden County near Tallahassee says it "can now confirm 4 storm-related fatalities following Hurricane Michael," all of which happened "in relation to or occurred during the storm." County officials say they're not releasing names or other details yet while families are notified.
One of those deaths would be a man killed by a falling tree. An 11-year-old girl in Georgia also died when Michael's winds picked up a carport and dropped it through the roof of her grandparents' home. A driver in North Carolina was killed when a tree fell on his car.
Some fear the toll can only rise as rescue teams get around storm debris blocking roads and reach isolated areas.
Hurricane Michael's pounding waves and winds obliterated row after row of beachfront homes at ground zero on the Florida Panhandle when the epic Category 4 hurricane slammed ashore at midweek. Now recovery is just barely beginning from the catastrophic destruction even as a downgraded Michael spreads high winds, rains and flash flooding misery as far away as Virginia.
At least three deaths have been blamed on Michael, the most powerful hurricane to hit the continental U.S. in over 50 years.
By early Friday it wasn't nearly over yet: a tropical storm long after Wednesday's landfall, Michael stubbornly kept up its punch while barreling over land toward an expected exit across the open Atlantic.
Forecasters say the storm has already begun shedding its tropical characteristics but will take on a new chapter as a powerful extratropical storm with gale force winds on its trek out to sea.
Watch News 6 for updates.
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