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Tropical Storm Michael Wreaks Havoc on Virginia

Newsweek logo Newsweek 10/12/2018 Jenni Fink

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Hurricane Michael’s wrath came down hard on Florida and as it made its way up the coast, its reign of destruction continued. In Virginia, one of the last states to experience Michael, hundreds of thousands of residents were without power, flooding closed roads and at least five people lost their lives.

Michael made landfall on Wednesday in the Florida Panhandle as a Category 4 hurricane with winds at 155 miles per hour. Moving relatively quickly up the east coast, Michael, then downgraded to a tropical storm, hit Virginia on Thursday evening with winds of about 50 miles per hour.

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency ahead of Michael’s arrival and urged residents to get prepared for flash floods, winds, tornadoes and power outages.

“I am declaring a state of emergency in order to provide state assets to Virginians and to assist our neighbors in states who are dealing with the devastating effects of this historic storm,” Northam said.

Northam’s warning came to fruition on Thursday as parts of Virginia experienced flooding so severe it closed roads, trapped people in their homes and cars and prompted an inundation of emergency calls.

The Danville Fire Department told WDBJ that, on Thursday, within a two-hour time frame, there were an estimated 200 emergency calls. In Glade Valley, heavy rain prompted a landslide that destroyed a camper and a building and uprooted trees.

a tree in a forest © Sean Rayford/Getty Images

ABC New Meteorologist Ginger Zee posted a video on Twitter of flooding in Roanoke, which she explained was up to about six inches and was “swallowing cars.”

Michael’s extreme conditions caused multiple rivers to rise to major flooding levels, including:

  • New River at Glen Lyn: 19.29 feet
  • New River at Radford: 23.83 feet
  • Peak River at Pulaski: 14.1 feet
  • Dan River at Danville: 30.01 feet
  • Dan River at Paces: 28.23 feet
  • Dan River at South Boston: 29.37 feet

The Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM) reported on Thursday morning, as of 7 a.m. EDT, at least 520,000 people were without power and 1,200 roads were closed because of the storm.

Tragically, the storm also caused the deaths of five people in Virginia, according to VDEM. One victim, 45-year-old James E. King, was killed during a flash flood in Pittsylvania County, according to WTKR.

Jeff Caldwell, a spokesman for VDEM, told The Washington Post that three other people lost their lives after being swept away in floodwaters.

“As the light comes up today we’re looking at damages,” Caldwell told The Washington Post. “We see a lot of downed trees.”

The fifth fatality caused by Michael was Lieutenant Brad Clark from Hanover County, who lost his life when a tractor-trailer hit the fire department’s engine. At the time of the crash, Clark was on the scene assisting victims of a two-vehicle crash.

"We're still in life-safety mode," EMA Administrator Brock Long told CBS News. "We're not even close to having discussions on rebuilding yet."

Along with the tropical storm conditions, the National Weather Service in Wakefield, Virginia, confirmed a tornado touched down near Scotts Forks in southern Amelia County on Thursday. Four other tornadoes possibly hit the area, but have not been confirmed, according to the VDEM.

On Friday, Michael was headed out to the Atlantic Ocean and moving away from the United States. The storm, classified as a post-tropical cyclone, had wind speeds of 65 miles per hour.


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