Hurricane Michael: Death Toll Continues To Rise Amid Searches

Areas of the US devastated by Hurricane Michael last week are continuing to count the storm’s cost as the number of confirmed dead rises.

At least 27 deaths have been blamed on the hurricane across four US states – a number expected to increase further.

A volunteer organisation has said it is trying to find more than 1,100 people believed to be unaccounted for.

The storm destroyed buildings and flattened communities as it tore through the Florida panhandle region.

Most of the missing are said to be in Panama City and are elderly, disabled or live alone, co-founder of Houston-based CrowdSource Rescue Matthew Marchetti told the Reuters news agency.

That number has not been confirmed by regional officials, and the Florida Department of Health has created an online form for people to report friends and loved ones missing.

US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania visited the storm-affected region in Florida and Georgia on Monday.

As of Wednesday morning, more than 150,000 homes and businesses were still reported to be without power.

There were also reports of armed looting of homes and businesses in some areas.

A major at Bay County’s Sheriff’s office, Jimmy Stanford, said that local police there had arrested about 10 suspected looters every night since Friday.

Zombie Storm Leslie Slammed Portugal, France And Spain With Unusual Strength

There are no two ways about it — the storm known as Leslie was a weirdo, the strangest to develop in the Atlantic Ocean this year, if not in many years.

The storm finally crashed into Europe’s Iberian Peninsula over the weekend, creating all sorts of havoc, after meandering over the open Atlantic Ocean for 19 days, where it took on many forms.

Previously a hurricane, Leslie arrived in Europe as an intense extratropical or mid-latitude storm, having lost its tropical characteristics. While not a hurricane in name at landfall, it was just as powerful, battering the Iberian Peninsula at virtually unprecedented strength.

Winds gusted to 109 mph along the western coast of Portugal in the community Figueira da Foz. The storm left behind flooding, uprooted hundreds of trees and caused 27 minor injuries in Portugal.

The unusually strong winds were due in part to a sting jet, a potent but narrow surge of exceptional winds caused when evaporative cooling within the storm drags the jet stream to the surface.

Leslie became the first tropically borne system to directly impact Spain since Vince in 2005 and was far more powerful. The BBC said winds gusted over 60 mph in the city of Zamora.

Farther north, devastating floods engulfed France as Leslie’s tropical connection drenched southern areas with heavy rainfall. At least 10 deaths were blamed on the floods.

Meteo-France reported the following rainfall totals in the south of France:11.6 inches (296 mm) fell in eight hours near Carcassonne, 9.6 inches (244 mm) fell in six hours and 4.4 inches (111 mm) in two hours.
14.3 inches (364 mm) fell in 24 hours in the Haut-Languedoc region. As of Tuesday, Leslie’s remnant circulation had merged with the remnants of Hurricane Michael, both entities substantially weakened.

Leslie first got its name on Sept. 23 as a subtropical storm in the middle of nowhere in the open Atlantic. Spinning absentmindedly in the central North Atlantic, the prospects for Leslie’s development weren’t good. In its first advisory, the National Hurricane Center ironically said it was “forecast to be a short-lived cyclone.”

Nobody knew Leslie would become the 11th-longest-lived Atlantic cyclone on record, fluctuating between tropical storm and Category 1 strength for at least 19 days.

But Leslie defied the odds, stubbornly dodging systems that could harvest its energy and strengthening when all signs suggested it shouldn’t. The National Hurricane Center first stated that Leslie was “forecast to become absorbed by a larger non-tropical low” within two or three days.

On Sept. 25, Leslie fell apart into a subtropical depression right on schedule. All done. Or so we thought.

Leslie’s brief falter didn’t last long, and the capricious storm rose from the dead two days later. The “zombie cyclone” took on the characteristics of a mid-latitude nor’easter-type storm instead, stirring up the seas with powerful hurricane-force winds on Sept. 27. Meteorologists refer to this type of storm as extratropical. Despite gusts exceeding the 74 mph criterion, however, Leslie’s cold-core nature did not fit the bill for it to be classified as a hurricane.

That’s when Leslie decided to switch things up. The post-tropical cyclone swirled in some warmer air on the 28th and became subtropical — a wacky hybrid combination of a tropical cyclone and a mid-latitude low — again.

Until this point, Leslie was never “officially” a tropical cyclone or hurricane. Only at 11 p.m. Atlantic time on Sept. 29 did the hurricane center finally award a tropical designation to Leslie. By then, the 50 mph storm was quickly acquiring the textbook hurricane shape and at last matured into a Category 1 hurricane with 80 mph winds on Oct. 3.

All the while, Leslie didn’t bother anybody but mariners. The storm went through an entire cycle again between different structures, wandering over the open ocean. Leslie began to peter out around Oct. 7 but then got feisty on the 8th. By Oct. 10, Leslie was mean — baring its teeth with winds of 90 mph tightly packed around a symmetric clouded-in center.

Part of Leslie’s perceived longevity is due to the wide arsenal of satellite imagery currently at the disposal of Hurricane Center meteorologists. Nowadays, forecasters can utilize remote sensing to better understand the internal organization of storms. A mere three or four decades ago, these tools existed in a much more rudimentary form — and Leslie probably would not have been named until it actually looked like a tropical cyclone in early October.

The takeaway? Leslie’s life span is certainly unusually long, but by no means unheard of. The San Ciriaco hurricane of 1899 persisted a whopping 27 days, and in the Pacific, cyclones have stuck around even longer. John clocked in at a staggering 30 days in 1994.

After Hurricane Michael: Shortages, Mourning, Darkness

Gas was in short supply, power outages were rampant and search teams continued their arduous tasks Sunday as Florida’s recovery from Hurricane Michael remained painfully slow along the coast of the state’s battered Panhandle.

There were some victories. Classes will resume Monday at Florida State’s sprawling, 40,000-student campus in Tallahassee and several other area universities. State offices also reopened.

In the Bay County communities of Panama City and Mexico Beach, where the strongest hurricane to hit the Panhandle since record-keeping began slammed onto the coast four days earlier, search-and-rescue crews accompanied by dogs solemnly picked through the rubble of shattered neighborhoods

The storm killed at least 17 people, including one in Mexico Beach. Entire communities were wiped out by the Category 4 storm’s roaring winds, and authorities feared the death toll would rise.

“If we lose only one life, to me, that’s going to be a miracle,” Mexico Beach Mayor Al Cathey said.

More than 170,000 power customers in Florida remained in the dark Sunday, including more than half the homes and businesses in Bay County. For some, power could be weeks away.

The effort to get schools and hospitals fully operational will be herculean. Bill Husfelt, superintendent of county schools, assessed damage over the weekend and had not decided when they could reopen.

“The superintendent wants everyone to know we are focusing on three things right now: faith, family and our future,” the district said in a Facebook post. “We will open our schools as soon as is feasible, but right now the county is focused on a humanitarian mission.”

Gulf Coast Medical Center in Panama City remained closed because of storm damage. Bay Medical Sacred Heart Hospital had “significant” damage that required evacuation of patients, CEO Scott Campbell said.

“Our hearts are heavy as we begin the process of rebuilding our community following the devastation of Hurricane Michael,” Campbell said.

A silver lining: Emergency rooms at both hospitals remained functioning.

Prison and jails were also hit hard. The state Department of Corrections said 2,600 inmates were evacuated from the Gulf Correctional Institution and Annex. An additional 305 were removed from Calhoun Correctional Institution.

No injuries were reported, and a website was provided for families to determine where their loved ones had been transferred.

“All inmates were secure and had access to food and drinking water through the duration of the storm,” the department said.

President Donald Trump is scheduled to visit the area Monday. The destruction he’ll encounters will be bleak.

“We’re all in this together,” Tallahassee Mayor and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum tweeted Sunday. “Our office doors are open to collect supplies and donations for people in North Florida.”

Storm Leslie: Portugal Hit By Hurricane-Force Wwinds

Hurricane-force winds have struck central and northern Portugal, leaving 300,000 homes without power.

The remnants of Hurricane Leslie swept in overnight on Saturday, with winds gusting up to 176km/h (109mph).

Civil defence officials said 27 people suffered minor injuries, with localised flooding, hundreds of trees uprooted and a number of flights cancelled.

The storm, one of the most powerful to ever hit the country, is now passing over northern Spain.

The worst-affected areas in Portugal were around the capital, Lisbon, and in the districts of Coimbra and Leiria. Aveiro, Viseu and Porto in the north also suffered damage.

About 1,000 trees have been uprooted, officials say. The main A1 motorway was among the roads temporarily blocked.

Some 1,900 incidents were reported to emergency services, although civil defence commander Luis Belo Costa said “the greatest danger has passed”.

Hundreds of people remained in an arts centre in Figueira da Foz after a concert because of the high winds.

A resident of the town told SIC television: “I have never seen anything like it, The town seemed to be in a state of war, with cars smashed by fallen trees. People were very worried.”

The roof blew off a stadium hosting the European final of the women’s roller hockey competition, halting the event, AFP news agency reported.

It is rare for an Atlantic hurricane to reach the Iberian peninsula, with only five such events recorded.

Hurricane Leslie had formed on 23 September but was downgraded to a tropical storm before it made landfall. However, it retained gusts of hurricane strength.

The Spanish Meteorological Agency (Amet) said Leslie was moving north-east through the peninsula.

Gusts of almost 100km/h were recorded near the city of Zamora early on Sunday, but winds have now lessened.

Amet said that on Sunday morning large areas of Asturias, Castille and León and Cantabria would be affected, with north-eastern areas hit in the afternoon.

Four departments in southern France have also been put on alert for storms and flooding.

Atlantic Storm Could Bring 150kph Winds Later This Week

 

 

Ireland could be hit by a strong Atlantic storm later this week with winds of up to 150 kilometres an hour.

Met Éireann says there is the potential for a named storm coming close to Ireland on Thursday night and into Friday morning – and it would be called Callum.

A yellow rainfall warning for Donegal, Mayo and Sligo is currently in place with 25 to 40 millimetres of rain expected to fall.

“There’s a lot of uncertainty in it but on Friday morning, it looks like a storm on the Atlantic is going to bring a lot of windy weather over,” he said.

“I’m not sure yet if it’s going to be named but, at the moment, it looks like the west coast will be worst affected.”

Meanwhile, it will be largely dry today for most except Ulster and north-west Connacht, where there will be rain that could be heavy at times.

Elsewhere there will be sunny spells and variable amounts of cloud, with a moderate to brisk south-westerly wind.

Hurricane Michael Upgraded To Category 2 Storm, Expected To Strengthen Before Florida Landfall

Hurricane Michael strengthened to a Category 2 storm Tuesday morning as it barreled toward Florida’s northeast Gulf Coast, threatening catastrophic storm surge, torrential rain and heavy winds.

“Hurricane Michael is forecast to be the most destructive storm to hit the Florida Panhandle in decades,” Gov. Rick Scott warned on Tuesday.

The storm is expected to move across the eastern Gulf of Mexico through Tuesday and make landfall in the Panhandle on Wednesday afternoon as a Category 3 storm, according to the National Weather Service.

On Tuesday, Michael’s top sustained winds had risen to 100 mph, and the National Hurricane Center said they were expected to increase to at least 110 mph before Michael wallops the Panhandle with “life-threatening” storm surge, heavy rainfall and likely tornados.

Hurricane force winds will extend 40 miles from the center of the storm, the center said.

“Some hurricane force winds are going to go well-inland, said FEMA official Jeff Byard, adding that Florida’s power structure will likely take a greater hit than the Carolinas did during Hurricane Florence.

Scott on Tuesday morning urged residents in the path of the storm to evacuate, saying the effects of the storm would start well before landfall.

“Hurricane Michael is a monstrous storm. The forecast keeps getting more dangerous,” he said.

Scott said he was most worried about the forecasted “absolutely deadly” 8 to 12 feet of storm surge expected, even in noncoastal areas.

“Water will come miles inshore and could easily be over the roofs of houses,” Scott said.

“You cannot hide from storm surge so get prepared and get out if an evacuation is ordered,” he said. “Remember, we can rebuild your house, but we cannot rebuild your life.”

He said 2,500 National Guardsmen are prepared to assist.

On Monday, Scott requested that President Donald Trump declare a pre-landfall emergency for the state, and declared a state of emergency in 35 counties.

Government offices will close in those counties, and while Tuesday was the deadline for Floridians to register to vote, residents will be allowed to register on the day those offices reopen, according to a statement from the secretary of state. The Florida Democratic Party filed a lawsuit Tuesday saying that the one-day extension was insufficient and confusing.

By Friday, the Florida Panhandle and Big Bend, southeast Alabama and southern Georgia could all see 4 to 8 inches of rain, with some areas getting a foot, the NWS said.

Eastern Georgia, the Carolinas and southern Virginia should expect 3 to 6 inches of rain through Friday, and Western Cuba should prepare for 4 to 8 inches, the NWS said.

The Carolinas are only beginning to recover from Hurricane Florence, which left dozens dead and a trail of devastation last month.

Indonesian Quake And Tsunami Death Toll Tops 1500 As Electricity Is Finally Restored To Stricken Palu

A week after a major earthquake brought devastation to Indonesia’s Sulawesi island, the official death toll from the quake and the tsunami it triggered stands at 1571, but it will certainly rise.

Most of the dead have been found in Palu. Figures for more remote areas, some still cut off by destroyed roads and landslides, are only trickling in, if at all.

No one knows how many people were dragged to their deaths when the ground under Petobo and nearby areas south of Palu, dissolved violently.

The national disaster agency says 1700 homes in one neighbourhood alone were swallowed up and hundreds of people killed.

Homes were sucked into the earth, torn apart and shunted hundreds of metres by the churning mud.

The first signs of recovery are evident in Palu. Electricity has been restored and some shops and banks have reopened and aid and fuel are arriving.

Vice President Jusuf Kalla, visiting the disaster zone, said recovery would be completed in two years, beginning with a two-month emergency response phase when everyone who lost their house would get temporary shelter.

Doctors have been flocking to help from other parts of Indonesia.

The Budi Agung hospital has 134 beds with about 20 more set up in a tent outside, all full. A hospital ship is also due to arrive.

Doctors said many patients have been at high risk of infection because they were buried in mud.

Rescue workers are pushing into outlying districts cut off for days. Villagers rushed a Red Cross helicopter that landed at Sirenja village near the quake’s epicentre, about 75km north of Palu, to drop off supplies.

Some quake damage was evident but the coast did not appear to have been battered by the tsunami, a Reuters photographer said.

Sulawesi is one of the archipelago nation’s five main islands, and like the others, is exposed to frequent earthquakes and tsunami.

In 2004, a quake off Sumatra island triggered a tsunami across the Indian Ocean that killed 226,000 people in 13 countries, including more than 120,000 in Indonesia.