Sct Thunderstorms
H 86° L 76°
  • clear-day
    Current Conditions
    Sct Thunderstorms. H 86° L 76°
  • partly-cloudy-tstorms-day
    Sct Thunderstorms. H 86° L 76°
  • cloudy-day
    Partly Cloudy. H 91° L 77°

The latest newscast

00:00 | 00:00


The latest traffic report

00:00 | 00:00


The latest forecast

00:00 | 00:00

Hurricane season 2019: A sense of fear for towns already hit

Hurricane season 2019: A sense of fear for towns already hit

Hurricane season 2019: A sense of fear for towns already hit
Photo Credit: AP Photo/Jay Reeves
In this May 9, 2019, photo, business owner Keith Bassett discusses his effort to renovate a building in the Strand, the Galveston, Texas, historic downtown district. The restoration of the historic building is part of an ongoing rebirth of downtown Galveston following the devastation the city suffered when Hurricane Ike made landfall in 2008. “The city is definitely doing really well,” said Bassett, who rebuilt and consolidated his two stores that were flooded. (AP Photo/John L. Mone)

Hurricane season 2019: A sense of fear for towns already hit

The annual start of hurricane season casts a shadow of dread over coastal sections of the United States. People fret over the next Big One, even as communities struggle to recover from the last one.

For some communities, the devastation remains an open wound, as in Florida's Panama City, slammed by Hurricane Michael in October.

Even years later, many towns still bear the scars, physical or psychological.


With hurricane season days away, Janelle Crosby steps out of the cramped recreational vehicle where she has lived since Hurricane Michael ripped apart her world more than seven months ago.

More than a half-dozen friends and relatives live in three domed tents near the front of the RV, and a daughter is just feet away in Crosby's former home, an old trailer that was split open by trees. A homeless man lives in a tent on the other side of the RV; Crosby and her husband, Wilbur, let him stay on their little plot of property because he had nowhere else to go.

Crosby, 55, rode out the Category 5 storm at a hotel and feels fortunate, despite her living conditions and poor health — she has breast cancer — because no close friends or family died in Michael. Yet she is terrified that hurricane season begins Saturday with her Florida Panhandle community still in ruins.

"I've already lost everything once. We can't do it again. I can't. I'm not strong enough. A lot of these people aren't," Crosby said over the drone of a gasoline-powered generator.

It's hard to imagine what another hurricane would do to Crosby's part of the Panhandle, where she lives near Panama City in Springfield.

Both cities are in Bay County, where 25 people were killed as Michael blew ashore with winds of 160 mph (257 kph). About 70% of the county's homes were damaged or destroyed, and some 20,000 people were displaced. Three schools remain closed because of damage, as do many businesses and apartment buildings. Officials estimate 13% of the county's 185,000 residents simply left.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency provided Crosby and her husband $1,300 in aid and offered a temporary condominium nearly 15 miles (24 kilometers) away in Panama City Beach, she said. The family declined the housing because her husband didn't have transportation to get to his job at a transmission shop, Crosby said.

So the couple remains in the camper, shooing away the occasional rat and pooling resources with the tent dwellers.

"If one of us has generator gas, we all have a fan, or if we have propane, we all get to cook that night," she said. "If not, we get out here and make fires and cook. We're surviving."

They're also praying there's not another hurricane anytime soon.

"I don't want to live through another," she said. "I don't want to ever witness what we witnessed. It was just terrifying."

-- Associated Press writer Jay Reeves


Thomas Lee tenses up whenever a forecaster mentions trouble in the tropics.

He dreads a third round of flooding from hurricane-swollen rivers, which might mean finally telling his South Carolina hometown of 70 years goodbye. That's after devastating flooding from Hurricane Matthew in 2016 and again from Hurricane Florence in 2018.

When the first drops of rain from Florence fell last September, Lee considered leaving. But exactly 238 days later, he put the last coat of bright yellow paint on his walls, covering the 2018 high-water mark, several inches above the 2016 line. Some $13,000 later — all out of his own pocket for now — his house is home again, while the town of a few hundred souls struggles to stay alive.

"These are my roots," Lee said, pointing to a nearly collapsed structure next door where he was born in 1949.

Nichols, 45 miles (72 kilometers) from the sea, lost more than half its businesses and a third of its homes in 2016 and shrank some more after 2018, Town Administrator Sandee Rogers said. Along Nichols' two-lane main drag, every building is boarded up. Many houses abandoned in 2016 are collapsing. Its bustling core gone, Nichols now tries to attract residents with its proximity to the coast, Rogers said.

"It's real small-town America, but close to other things," Rogers said. "We can't give up on small-town America."

Some research suggests global warming is increasing the intensity of rains across the Southeast. A $1.5 million federal grant will study Nichols' topography and flow to see how to prevent flooding, but the results won't be in in time to make any difference this season.

"We're on pins and needles now," Rogers said.

-- Associated Press writer Jeffrey Collins


It's been nearly 11 years since Hurricane Ike smashed Murdochs gift shop to splinters in Galveston while devastating homes on the Texas island and wiping away beaches that were the lifeblood of its tourism economy.

The shop was rebuilt on its stilts about a year later and today is more successful than ever, co-owner Todd Flores said.

"It was hard, but we had a lot of people helping us," Flores said of the rebuilding, which was sped by a loan from a local bank when insurance money was slow in coming. "We knew this is what we wanted to do."

The hurricane's 110 mph (177 kph) winds and 15-foot (4.6-meter) storm surge damaged 80% of Galveston's homes. Its population of 55,000 dropped by about 10,000.

The population has bounced back, but the demographics shifted. Many of those who lived in public housing that was destroyed never came back. That meant Galveston lost many African American families, changing the city's character, said Leon Phillips, president of the Galveston Coalition for Justice.

"When you displace that many people in one fell swoop, that leaves very little to ... keep the history of African Americans on this island," Phillips said.

Phillips has pushed for a full rebuilding of Galveston's four public housing complexes against the resistance of some residents who say they are a haven for poverty. Only half of the lost units have been rebuilt, but the mayor is committed to finishing the job.

"In my mind, the city was too slow to respond to the underserved or those who couldn't raise Cain and get answers," Mayor Jim Yarbrough said.

Between 2008, when Ike hit, and 2015, Galveston's black population dropped 9%. But it has increased in the past few years.

Meanwhile, Galveston has spent more than $200 million to largely restore its infrastructure, improving storm drainage and building a $75 million wastewater treatment plant. Last year the Gulf Coast city had its best year on record, with 7.2 million visitors.

"The city is definitely doing really well," said Keith Bassett, who rebuilt and consolidated his two stores that were flooded in Galveston's historic downtown. "Based upon what happened after Hurricane Ike, you never would have believed we would be at this point."

The approach of hurricane season is a reminder that it's only a matter of time before the next one. A hurricane in 1900 killed 6,000 Galveston residents. Murdochs has been rebuilt five times since it opened in 1910 inside a bathhouse.

"You don't really breathe until November," Flores said.

-- Associated Press writer Juan A. Lozano


Siblings Patty and John Vogt remember brisk traffic on Louisiana Highway 23 that brought oilfield workers to their roadside produce business. Grocery stores and farmers markets were regular customers for the citrus they grew in Plaquemines Parish.

"Our business was really blooming," Patty recalled as she sat next to her brother in a cavernous red barn behind their produce stand and next to a small orchard. "We had a lot of customers. We delivered to wholesalers, fruit stands, stores."

Then came Hurricane Katrina in 2005. It blew ashore in Plaquemines Parish on its way to New Orleans, where it caused a catastrophe.

In its aftermath, Patty managed to salvage and rebuild the 60-foot (18-meter) contraption that washes, rinses and dries their harvest. But their citrus business never fully recovered. She once tended 5,000 trees. Now, it's about 1,000. The 200 citrus producers in Plaquemines before Katrina hit dwindled to 60 by 2017, according to the Louisiana State University AgCenter.

Patty, 65, said she is determined to continue their family business of four generations but always frets when hurricane season nears.

"Everybody does that's been totally wiped out," said Patty, whose business has also been hurt by drop-offs in customers as a result of low oil prices and the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

John, 68, reminisced about the competition at the annual parish Orange Festival. "There used to be eight, 10, maybe 12 vendors at one time selling oranges," he said.

"Now, you got one," the brother and sister said, almost in unison. "Us."

-- Associated Press writer Kevin McGill


Nearly 27 years after Hurricane Andrew cut a path of destruction south of Miami, Karon Grunwell is still overcome with sadness when she thinks about how the Category 5 storm forever changed her hometown.

In 1992, Homestead was a sleepy agricultural town bordered by the Everglades and large farms planted with winter tomatoes and other crops. It was also the site of Homestead Air Force Base. Now Homestead is full of sprawling gated developments where many residents commute 40 miles (60 kilometers) north to Miami with no memory of the monster storm.

Grunwell still lives in the sturdy concrete block home where she and her family rode out the storm in the early morning darkness of Aug. 12. Thousands of homes and businesses in the town of about 27,000 were leveled.

"The Air Force base was totally destroyed. Andrew caused a major impact to schools, grocery stores, retail businesses. And it caused huge economic problems for just your everyday people," Grunwell said. "The vegetation has come back, but it's not anything like it was."

"I still cry when I talk about it," she said.

Families who had lived in the area for generations got their insurance payouts and moved away. Many went to neighboring Broward County. Grunwell, who was a manager for the Postal Service, said there were 35,000 change-of-address forms processed for the towns of Homestead, nearby Florida City and Princeton.

Jeff Blakley, 69, remembers watching the exodus while pulling 12-hour shifts as a BellSouth lineman, repairing telephone lines for the ravaged area.

"As I went home in the evenings, I remember seeing a solid line of cars heading north," Blakley said. "It was bumper-to-bumper, and it was heartbreaking because you would see cars with everything they owned. Stuff was coming out the windows and mattresses were strapped to the roof. And they were just leaving because the devastation was so horrific."

The Air Force base was downsized, its population going from 5,123 before Andrew to 466 in 2000. The storm stunted Homestead's growth rate in the 1990s, but it surged in the early 2000s as land sold by departing farmers was transformed into housing developments. The town now has about 70,000 people.

But for hurricane survivors, "the stuff will not go away for quite some time," Grunwell said. "You will keep remembering how things were."

-- Associated Press writer Freida Frisaro


An earlier version of this report had an incorrect age for Jeff Blakley.

Read More

The Latest Headlines You Need To Know

  • Police arrested a 33-year-old man Monday on suspicion of intentionally driving into pedestrians in Jefferson City, injuring a 61-year-old man and killing a pregnant woman and her 2-year-old son, according to investigators. >> Read more trending news  Authorities said William David Phillips, of Jefferson City, swerved to intentionally hit Tillman Gunter, 61, while driving west on East Main Street on Monday afternoon. Police said Phillips traveled less than a mile before swerving again, striking Sierra Wilson Cahoon, 30, and her 2-year-old son, Nolan Cahoon. Cahoon, Nolan and Cahoon’s unborn child were pronounced dead at the scene of the crash, according to investigators. Gunter was taken to a hospital with injuries that did not appear to be life-threatening, police said. Authorities were called around 3:30 p.m. Monday after Phillips lodged the car he was driving into a building for Sustainable Aquatics, a fish hatchery, according to The Citizen Tribune and the Knoxville News Sentinel. Witness Bill Ray Jones told WBIR-TV he heard Phillips yelling that the “government told him to do it” as he tried to flee from the scene of the crash. 'He knew he had hit (Cahoon) and I'm sure he did because he was talking all crazy,' he told the news station. Sustainable Aquatics owner John Carberry told the News Sentinel he arrived at the scene of the crash within minutes Monday and found Cahoon and her son dead on the sidewalk. “There was a hole in the building and one of my employees ran out,” Carberry told the News Sentinel. “She had minor injuries. She ran up to the main building, and the perpetrator ran out of the hole and ran up and some local citizens grabbed him.” The crash ruptured several fish tanks and destroyed four fish systems, Carberry told The Citizen Tribune and the News Sentinel. He estimated about 2,000 wild-caught fish died after the crash caused more than 10,000 gallons of water to rush from the tanks. “I just want to let the police do their job and mourn the passing of this mother and child,” Carberry told The Citizen Tribune. “It’s very sad.” Phillips, of Jefferson City, was arrested on two counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted first-degree murder. Authorities filed an additional murder charge against Phillips on Wednesday for the death of Cahoon's unborn child, WATE reported. In a news release, police said investigators believed 'this was an intentional act of violence toward randomly chosen pedestrians. “Investigators have determined that Phillips did not know the victims,” police said. In an arrest warrant obtained Wednesday by the News Sentinel, authorities said Phillips told investigators “a voice told him that he needed to go kill meth addicts.” After Phillips spotted Cahoon and her son, 'He said the voice told him that the baby stroller had meth in it so he intentionally drove into (the mother and child) ... killing them both,' the warrant said, according to the News Sentinel. Records from the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department showed he remained jailed Wednesday. A spokesperson for Carson-Newman University, a Christian university in Jefferson City, told WBIR-TV that Cahoon and Nolan were the wife and son of Matt Cahoon, an assistant athletic trainer at the school. “Our hearts are breaking for one of our own,” Carson-Newman University interim President Paul Percy said Tuesday in a statement. “We take comfort in knowing that God also feels our pain and hears our prayers. Because of this, we ask for prayers for Matt and his family now and in the days ahead.” Officials at First Steps Preschool at the First United Methodist Church told WBIR-TV Nolan was a happy student who always gave out hugs and high-fives. 'He was a joy,' the preschool’s director, Jessica Lawson, told WBIR-TV. 'He would walk through the door smiling every morning.' Officials at Carson-Newman University started a fund to benefit the Cahoon family. Those wishing to contribute can donate online to The Randall and Kay O’Brien Benevolent Fund on the university’s website.[Summary]
  • A man who stabbed a New York City man early Tuesday also partially severed his own finger during the attack, police said. >> Read more trending news  The 35-year-old victim, who was repeatedly stabbed, lived in the Bronx, WPIX reported. According to police, the attacker and victim were arguing outside a bar at 1:15 a.m. when the stabbing occurred. The victim was stabbed in the back, while the attacker partially cut a finger on his left hand, WPIX reported. The assailant then ran away, police said. Police said the attacker appeared to be in his mid- to late 20s, the television station reported. The man had a beard and tattoos on his right forearm and upper right arm, WPIX reported. Police said the man was last seen wearing a red baseball cap, white T-shirt and dark colored shorts, the television station reported.
  • A mentally ill Oregon woman suffered life-threatening injuries Monday when she apparently climbed into a garbage chute at her boyfriend’s condominium community and plunged 16 stories to the bottom. The Oregonian reported that the woman, who was not publicly identified, suffered head injuries in her fall from the 16th floor of the Civic, a condo building in Portland’s Pearl District.  Portland Fire & Rescue spokesman Rich Chatman told the newspaper the woman, who is in her late 20s, slid down into the garbage collection area, where firefighters found her unconscious. Police declined to file charges against the woman. “I can say there was a mental health component involved,” Chatman told the paper.  On Tuesday, Chatman said it appeared the woman put herself in the chute.  “The prevailing assumption is that she got into the chute on her own will,” he said.  Steven Lofton, who lives on the 16th floor of the Civic, told a reporter that the woman and her boyfriend are known on their floor for getting into fights, both verbal and physical. Neighbors had voiced their concerns to the building’s management. >> Read more trending news Lofton said he heard someone pounding on his door just after lunchtime Monday and went to the door to find the woman, who told him she was afraid. When he opened his door, she rushed in, screaming, and began trashing his condo, he told the paper.  “She was wild, just absolutely wild,” Lofton said. “She was breaking and throwing everything in her sight. Plates, vases, cutlery. You name it.” The woman ran out into the hallway, where she encountered her boyfriend. They got into a physical confrontation, Lofton said.  Lofton said he closed his door and called 911. The woman went down the garbage chute moments later, The Oregonian said.  A Portland police spokeswoman told the paper Tuesday that a domestic violence investigation is ongoing, though detectives are waiting for the woman’s condition to improve. “The involved woman’s medical situation is of a higher priority than the criminal investigation at this time,” Jones said in an email to the newspaper.  
  • Meet Poncho Via - the newest holder of a Guinness World Record with a sensational set of 10 foot-7.4 inches horns from tip to tip. The 7-year-old steer makes his home in Goodwater, Alabama and has been living with his family, the Pope’s, since he was six-months old. The family said they knew Poncho was something special when his horns began to grow out to the sides inside of curving up, like other longhorns’ do. Poncho is very popular around town too, with his ‘dad’ saying of him, 'All my neighbors (around) here, any time they have company, they come over to see the longhorn. He's just a big, gentle character. Everyone brings (food) with them -- he likes apples, carrots and marshmallows.' Mobile user see tweet here. His humongous horns aren’t all glitz and show, though. They’ve gotten him into trouble a time or two. George Jones, a family member who helps out with Poncho on the ranch, tells the story, “He pulled a water bottle right out my pocket with his tongue. He's there playing with the bottle and I reached and scratched him for a bit.'  The caretaker said he was knocked into a pond once, when the longhorn became spooked by something. 'That went on for a little while and I guess a horsefly got on him or something (because), all of a sudden, he turned that head and I went airborne into the pond. He just knocked me completely off my feet into the water,' Jones said. The former record holder, a Texas longhorn named Sato, had a horn spread of 10 feet, 6.3 inches, when measured in September, according to Guinness World Records. As the tweet below mentions, Poncho’s horns measures more than twice the width of a concert grand piano. Mobile user see tweet here.
  • An independent investigator for the United Nations says there is 'credible evidence' warranting a probe into Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's possible involvement in the 2018 slaying of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.  >> Read more trending news  According to The Associated Press, U.N. special rapporteur Agnes Callamard said in a 101-page report that 'a proper authority' should consider whether the crown prince or senior adviser Saud Alqahtani bore 'criminal responsibility' in the death. 'Mr. Khashoggi's killing constituted an extrajudicial killing for which the State of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is responsible,' the report said.  Khashoggi, who was critical of the Saudi regime, was killed at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last October. Saudi officials later blamed the death on 'rogue operators,' CNN reported. Eleven people – five of whom could receive the death penalty – are being tried in Saudi Arabia in connection with the slaying. The report said Callamard made 'no conclusion' as to whether the crown prince or Alqahtani are guilty but determined that Khashoggi's execution was 'deliberate' and 'premeditated,' news outlets reported. The report also named 15 suspects in the incident, during which Khashoggi was drugged, suffocated and dismembered, CNN reported. Read more here or here. – The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Washington Insider

  • After weeks of negotiations over a White House request for extra money to deal with a surge of illegal immigrants along the southern border with Mexico, Senators on a key spending panel voted 30-1 on Wednesday to approve a $4.59 billion spending package to insure that various federal agencies have enough money to address what President Donald Trump has said is a crisis at the border. 'This situation as most of us realize is past the breaking point,' said Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL). 'I believe we must act.' 'The fact is that we do have a humanitarian crisis on the border that does need to be addressed,' said Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT), who recounted crowded holding facilities for illegal immigrants. 'We've seen big numbers in the past, but we're going to exceed that this year,' said Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO). 'This bill is absolutely necessary,' said Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV). 'There are families and children who need our support.' The only 'no' vote in the Senate Appropriations Committee came from Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR). The bill only deals with money to help address the humanitarian needs along the border - it does not address any changes in U.S. immigration laws desired by President Trump. On Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee had been scheduled to start work on a bill which would make some of those immigration reforms, but that work will be delayed into July in search of a bipartisan agreement. “This is not a crisis - this is a disaster,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who is leading President Trump's charge to change immigration laws. 'Our immigration laws are a disgrace and the Democrats can get together with the Republicans and solve the problem quickly,' the President told his campaign kickoff rally on Tuesday night in Orlando, Florida. It's expected the full Senate could vote on the package next week. It is not clear if the House would follow suit before lawmakers leave town at the end of June for a break during the week of July Fourth.