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Sunday, Dec 16, 2018
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Hurricane Michael death toll rises to 13 across the South

NORFOLK, Va. - The death toll for Hurricane Michael is now 13 across the South, AP reports. Search teams are combing through the rubble to find missing people as many are still left without power or a way to communicate with their loved ones.

More than 214,000 Dominion Energy customers in Norfolk, Va. woke without power in Hampton Roads on Friday morning, after Tropical Storm Michael swept through overnight, according to the energy company's website.

That includes more than 120 schools, according to a tweet from Dominion. All schools in Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Chesapeake and Portsmouth are closed.

Elsewhere in Virginia the storm took a worse toll, killing five people in the state and dropping five suspected tornadoes.

The fatalities included two people in the Richmond region - one from a car crash and one in a drowning - and three drownings in the western part of the state, according to the Virginia Department of Emergency Management. Officials believe tornadoes touched down in Gloucester, James City/New Kent, Halifax, Pittsylvania and Amelia.

"We were blessed yet again," said Jim Redick, Norfolk's director of emergency preparedness and response.

Just two days after devastating Mexico Beach in the Florida Panhandle after making landfall on Wednesday at 1:40 p.m., the storm was racing through the Northeast and poised to makes its way east across the Atlantic Ocean.

As of early Friday morning, it was reclassified as a post-tropical storm, with winds at 65 mph. It was located about 185 miles east-northeast of Norfolk, Va., and about 275 miles southwest of Nantucket, Mass., moving to the east-northeast at 29 mph.

In Hampton Roads, the power outages include more than 51,000 customers in Virginia Beach, plus 33,000 in Norfolk, 19,000 in Chesapeake, 10,000 in Portsmouth and about 5,000 in Suffolk. The Peninsula is also without power: about 27,000 customers in Hampton, 17,000 in James City County, 29,000 in Newport News, 2,000 in Williamsburg and 15,000 in York.

"We want people to be prepared for multi-day outages," said Dominion spokeswoman Bonita Billingsley Harris. She said the outages are mostly due to downed trees and tree limbs. Crews are responding to emergency calls and critical needs first.

Sustained winds Thursday night reached 37 miles per hour with gusts up to 67 miles per hour, according to the National Weather Service. A high wind warning remains in effect for southeast Virginia, North Carolina and the Eastern Shore.

In Gloucester County, officials believe that a tornado may have struck the Guinea section Thursday evening as the storm moved into the area. The National Weather Service issued a tornado warning for the area around 7:20 p.m. Shortly after, witnesses reported hearing loud, roaring noises consistent with a tornado, according to Gloucester emergency management coordinator Brett Major. A number of trees and telephone poles were snapped in high winds.

No injuries have been reported, there were some reports of downed trees hitting houses in the county, according to Major. Power lines crisscrossed the 700 block of Carolina Avenue in Norfolk's Colonial Place neighborhood Friday morning.

A tree fell across Aurthur Bookert's front yard and into the street, taking several lines down with it. Bookert said he was inside on the computer when the tree fell, shortly after midnight, causing a transformer to blow. He's lived in the home for 22 years, he said, and has never had a tree fall so close to his home.

"We were planning to cut this one down soon," he said. "But the wind took care of that for us."

Building materials littered roadways and sidewalks near Waterside, spanning from Union Street to Town Point Park. Norfolk crews did an assessment this morning and will continue doing so to identify downed trees and limbs, but they are no impeding roadways, he said. Residents can report downed trees in the roadway to the city but are responsible for their own property.

In Virginia Beach, Sandbridge Road is closed due to a downed tree, but Dam Neck Road is open for Sandbridge residents to commute. Indian River Road from Princess Anne Road in Pungo up to West Neck Road is closed.

"High water" signs are posted along some area roadways.

"If you don't have to go through, you should turn around and find another route," said Drew Lankford, a public works spokesman.

Trees have fallen throughout the city, causing power outages. Area beaches fared well, and storm erosion has been minimal, Lankford said. City offices are closed until noon.

The Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel had been closed due to high winds for several hours, but is now open with level 4 wind restrictions. Winds are in excess of 60 miles per hour. The only types of vehicles allowed to cross are cars without exterior cargo, pick-up trucks without cargo, mini-vans, and SUVs. Maximum safe speed 45 mph. Complimentary district-operated wind vans will be provided to assist in transporting exterior cargo that would otherwise restrict passenger cars and pickups.

Meanwhile, rain spawned by the remnants of Hurricane Michael is causing some travel issues in New Jersey.

The state received 1 to 4 inches of rain from the storm, with eastern and southern areas seeing the highest amounts.

A steady rain started falling late Thursday afternoon and continued through early Friday, causing minor flooding in areas with poor drainage. And several roadways were closed at times during the night due to flooding, though waters had receded in most areas by early Friday.

The storm didn't cause much property damage, though scattered power outages were reported.

High winds, downed trees, streets inundated by rising waters and multiple rescues of motorists from waterlogged cars played out in spots around Virginia and neighboring North Carolina. And while forecasters said Michael was gradually losing its tropical traits, it was a new chapter would begin as an extratropical storm predicted to intensify with gale force winds once it starts cross out into the Atlantic.

In North Carolina's mountains, motorists had to be rescued Thursday from cars trapped by high water. High winds toppled trees and power lines, leaving hundreds of thousands without power. Flash flooding also was reported in the big North Carolina cities of Charlotte and Raleigh. Similar scenes played out in parts of Virginia as the storm raced seaward.

All told, more than 900,000 homes and businesses in Florida, Alabama, Georgia and the Carolinas were without power.

Georgia's Department of Agriculture Commissioner Gary W. Black said crops, animals and infrastructure have all taken a substantial loss because of the storm. Black says poultry contributes $23.3 billion to Georgia's economy and has reported the most widespread power outages and losses. Intense winds also hurt cotton crops.

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