WILSON’S LOCAL PRINT AND DIGITAL COMMUNITY INSTITUTION SINCE 1896

Storm rushes through the state

Nicer weather in Michael’s wake

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After a day of wind and rain, Wilson can expect a lot of sunshine and fall-like weather through the weekend.

Residents waited much of the day for Tropical Storm Michael to make its way across the state.

“Everybody is still recuperating from Florence,” said Jane Walston of Wilson, as she closed up an umbrella in gusty winds at her car after visiting Walmart Thursday.

Emergency officials here planned ahead of the storm for safety purposes and remained on standby throughout Thursday night. Gov. Roy Cooper declared a state of emergency for many North Carolina counties, including Wilson, where there were only a few scattered power outages by mid-afternoon.

While Wilson County Schools were closed Thursday, they will operate on a two-hour delay Friday.

Wilson was also under a flash flood and tornado watch Thursday as well as a tropical storm warning.

George England of Wilson kept his umbrella wrapped up as he left the Boykin Center on Nash Street Thursday afternoon.

“We were spared, I think,” he said.

Wilson was initially slated to receive between 3 and 6 inches, but projections were lowered by Wednesday morning to between 2 and 3 inches. At press time, there was potential for downed trees and power lines in Wilson late Thursday evening due to winds between 30 and 40 mph.

NORTH CAROLINA

North Carolina authorities say a driver died after a tree fell on his car as Michael’s wind and rain lashed the state.

The accident happened in Iredell County, north of Charlotte, where authorities reported strong winds and numerous roads closed by flash flooding.

Kent Greene, the county’s director of emergency management and fire services, said in an email that the man died Thursday after his car was struck by a tree on a highway east of Statesville.

Greene confirmed the death was related to the storm. He wasn’t able to immediately release the man’s age or identity.

Forecasters said the storm could drop up to 7 inches of rain over the Carolinas and Virginia before it pushed out to sea Thursday night.

In North Carolina’s mountains, motorists had to be rescued from cars trapped by high water.

“For North Carolina, Michael isn’t as bad as Florence, but it adds unwelcome insult to injury, so we must be on alert,” Cooper said.

FLORIDA

The devastation inflicted by Hurricane Michael came into focus Thursday with rows upon rows of homes found smashed to pieces, and search crews began making their way into the stricken areas in hopes of accounting for hundreds of people who may have defied evacuation orders.

At least two deaths were blamed on Michael, the most powerful hurricane to hit the continental U.S. in over 50 years, and it wasn’t done yet: Though reduced to a tropical storm, it brought flash flooding to North Carolina and Virginia, soaking areas still recovering from Hurricane Florence.

Under a perfectly clear blue sky, families living along the Florida Panhandle emerged tentatively from darkened shelters and hotels to a perilous landscape of shattered homes and shopping centers, beeping security alarms, wailing sirens and hovering helicopters.

Gov. Rick Scott said the Panhandle woke up to “unimaginable destruction.”

“So many lives have been changed forever. So many families have lost everything,” he said.

The full extent of Michael’s fury was only slowly becoming clear, with some of the hardest-hit areas difficult to reach because of roads blocked by debris or water. An 80-mile stretch of Interstate 10, the main east-west route along the Panhandle, was closed.

Some of the worst damage was in Mexico Beach, where the hurricane crashed ashore Wednesday as a Category 4 monster with 155 mph winds and a storm surge of 9 feet. Video from a drone revealed widespread devastation across the town of about 1,000 people.

Entire blocks of homes near the beach were obliterated, reduced to nothing but concrete slabs in the sand. Rows and rows of other homes were turned into piles of splintered lumber or were crumpled and slumped at odd angles. Entire roofs were torn away and dropped onto a road. Boats were tossed ashore like toys.

A National Guard team got into Mexico Beach and found 20 survivors overnight, and more crews were pushing into the area in the morning, with the fate of many residents unknown, authorities said. State officials said 285 people in Mexico Beach had refused to leave ahead of the hurricane despite a mandatory evacuation order.

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