Hurricane Michael charges into Southeast after slamming north Florida

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Trees lay on the top of a home after hurricane Michael passed through the area on Wednesday, October 10, in Panama City, Florida. (Getty Images/AFP)
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A McDonald’s sign knocked down by hurricane Michael lays on the ground in Panama City, Florida. (Getty Images/AFP)
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Waves crash on stilt houses along the shore due to Hurricane Michael at Alligator Point in Franklin County, Florida, U.S., October 10, 2018. REUTERS/Steve Nesius
Updated 11 October 2018
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Hurricane Michael charges into Southeast after slamming north Florida

  • Authorities said at least one person has died, a man killed by a tree falling on a Panhandle home
  • ‘Hurricane Michael cannot break Florida’

PANAMA CITY, Florida: Hurricane Michael’s battering waves swamped streets and docks and shrieking winds splintered trees and rooftops. The most powerful hurricane on record to hit Florida’s Panhandle left wide destruction and at least one person dead and wasn’t nearly finished Thursday as it crossed Georgia toward the Carolinas, still reeling from epic flooding in Hurricane Florence.
Authorities said at least one person has died, a man killed by a tree falling on a Panhandle home. Search and rescue crews were expected to escalate efforts to reach hardest-hit areas and check for anyone trapped or injured in the storm debris.
A day after the supercharged storm crashed ashore amid white sand beaches, fishing towns and military bases, Michael was no longer a Category 4 monster packing 250 kph winds. Downgraded to a tropical storm early Thursday over south Georgia, it continued to weaken overnight but was still menacing the Southeast with heavy rains, blustery winds and possible spinoff tornadoes.
The National Hurricane Center in Miami said the eye of Michael was about 48 kilometers south-southwest of Macon in central Georgia at 12:00am Thursday. The storm had top sustained winds of 112 kph and was moving to the northeast at 27 kph.
After daylight Thursday residents of north Florida would just be beginning to take stock of the enormity of the disaster.
Damage in Panama City near where Michael came ashore Wednesday afternoon was so extensive that broken and uprooted trees and downed power lines lay nearly everywhere. Roofs were peeled away, sent airborne, and homes were split open by fallen trees. Twisted street signs lay on the ground. Palm trees whipped wildly in the winds. More than 380,000 homes and businesses were without power at the height of the storm.
Vance Beu, 29, was staying with his mother at her home, Spring Gate Apartments, a complex of single-story wood frame buildings where they piled up mattresses around themselves for protection. A pine tree punched a hole in their roof and his ears even popped when the barometric pressure went lower. The roar of the winds, he said, sounded like a jet engine.
“It was terrifying, honestly. There was a lot of noise. We thought the windows were going to break at any time,” Beu said.
Sally Crown rode out Michael on the Florida Panhandle thinking at first that the worst damage was the many trees downed in her yard. But after the storm passed, she emerged to check on the cafe she manages and discovered a scene of breathtaking destruction.
“It’s absolutely horrendous. Catastrophic,” Crown said. “There’s flooding. Boats on the highway. A house on the highway. Houses that have been there forever are just shattered.”
A Panhandle man was killed by a tree that toppled on a home, Gadsden County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Anglie Hightower said. But she added emergency crews trying to reach the home were hampered by downed trees and debris blocking roadways. The debris was a problem in many coastal communities and still hundreds of thousands of people were also left without power.
Gov. Rick Scott announced afterward that thousands of law enforcement officers, utility crews and search and rescue teams would now go into recovery mode. He said “aggressive” search and rescue efforts would get underway.
“Hurricane Michael cannot break Florida,” Scott vowed.
Michael sprang quickly from a weekend tropical depression, going from a Category 2 on Tuesday to a Category 4 by the time it came ashore. It forced more than 375,000 people up and down the Gulf Coast to evacuate as it gained strength quickly while crossing the eastern Gulf of Mexico toward north Florida. It moved so fast that people didn’t’ have much time to prepare, and emergency authorities lamented that many ignored the warnings and seemed to think they could ride it out.
In Panama City, plywood and metal flew off the front of a Holiday Inn Express. Part of the awning fell and shattered the glass front door of the hotel, and the rest of the awning wound up on vehicles parked below it.
“Oh my God, what are we seeing?” said evacuee Rachel Franklin, her mouth hanging open.
Based on its internal barometric pressure, Michael was the third most powerful hurricane to hit the US mainland, behind the unnamed Labor Day storm of 1935 and Camille in 1969. Based on wind speed, it was the fourth-strongest, behind the Labor Day storm (296 kph), Camille and Andrew in 1992.


Southeast Asia boosts fight against ‘real and present’ militant threat

Updated 2 min 39 sec ago
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Southeast Asia boosts fight against ‘real and present’ militant threat

  • The forum delegates agreed to share real-time intelligence that can immediately be acted upon
  • The weekend security meeting was attended by defense ministers of the 10-member ASEAN, as well as the US, China, Australia, India and Russia
SINGAPORE: Southeast Asian nations seeking to combat the threat of militancy have agreed to share intelligence, Singapore’s defense minister said Saturday, as he warned of a “real and present” danger to the region.
More than a year after Daesh-linked fighters seized the southern Philippine city of Marawi, the terrorist threat is as potent as ever, said Ng Eng Hen after hosting a meeting of defense ministers.
“Unfortunately even as the situation in Iraq and Syria improves, we are expecting more foreign fighters to come this way,” he added.
Ng said all 18 ministers at the gathering in Singapore, from Southeast Asia and key partners outside the region, viewed “terrorism as a real and present threat.”
The Southeast Asian delegates adopted an information-sharing platform called “Our Eyes” that will be used to share real-time intelligence that can immediately be acted upon, the minister added.
This came after the countries realized that they had underestimated the threat before the attack on Marawi, where the rebuilding effort could cost around $1 billion, he said.
Proposed by Indonesia, the platform is based on an intelligence-sharing alliance set up by the United States, Britain and three other countries after World War II to monitor the former Soviet Union.
The weekend security meeting was attended by the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), as well as US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and their counterparts from countries including China, Australia, India and Russia.
In last year’s assault on Marawi, hundreds of armed militants backed by foreign Daesh fighters attacked and took control of the largely Muslim city in a bid to establish a base in Southeast Asia.
Philippine troops, supported by sophisticated surveillance planes from the United States, dislodged the militants after five months of heavy fighting that left more than 1,000 people dead and the city in ruins.
Militants from other Southeast Asian countries, including Indonesia and Malaysia, were involved in the fighting.
Those at the meeting “felt that this must never happen again to any city within ASEAN,” Ng said.