ON AIR NOW

LISTEN NOW

Weather

cloudy-day
55°
Partly Cloudy
H 81° L 61°
  • cloudy-day
    55°
    Current Conditions
    Partly Cloudy. H 81° L 61°
  • cloudy-day
    76°
    Afternoon
    Partly Cloudy. H 81° L 61°
  • clear-day
    78°
    Evening
    Sunny. H 81° L 61°
LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

The latest top stories

00:00 | 00:00

LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

The latest traffic report

00:00 | 00:00

LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

The latest forecast

00:00 | 00:00

Local
Panhandle residents feel forgotten 4 months after hurricane
Close

Panhandle residents feel forgotten 4 months after hurricane

Panhandle residents feel forgotten 4 months after hurricane
Photo Credit: AP Photo/David Goldman
This combination photo taken Oct. 16, 2018, top, shows Gabrielle Morgan, center rear, braiding the hair of her husband Santional as they sit by a lantern with their children from left, Decoya, 13, Isabella, 3 mos., Gabriella, 3, and Lakevia, 15, in their room at the damaged American Quality Lodge where they continue to live without power days after Hurricane Michael hit Panama City, Fla. and the same room in the process of being cleaned out Jan. 23, 2019, bottom. Officials in Bay County, Florida, estimate 7,800 residents were still considered homeless in January and about three-quarters of the properties damaged in the storm were rental units. More than four months after one of the most intense hurricanes ever to make landfall in the continental United States devastated large parts of the Florida Panhandle, residents here are feeling forgotten. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

Panhandle residents feel forgotten 4 months after hurricane

It was little more than four months ago that one of the most intense hurricanes ever to make landfall in the continental United States devastated large parts of the Florida Panhandle — recent enough that displaced residents are still living in tents and empty foundations still stand in place of the homes that were ripped from their lots.

And yet the people who live here feel like the rest of the world has forgotten them .

Nonprofit relief organizations and local officials say the funds collected on behalf of survivors of Hurricane Michael are well below those that poured in for victims of other hurricanes in the past three years.

The global attention the Category 4 storm first received quickly faded as national and international news media moved on to cover the midterm election and disastrous fires in California. There were no celebrity-studded telethons for the victims as there were last year for victims of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, or more than a dozen years ago for the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

"We recognize there are other places in the country that have issues. But northwest Florida in the last six weeks to eight weeks, we feel like we have fallen by the wayside," said Mayor Al Cathey of Mexico Beach, the seaside city of about 1,200 people that lost 80 percent of its homes when the hurricane barreled ashore on Oct. 10 with 155-mph (250-kph) winds. "I don't want to not sound appreciative for all that was done initially. They showed up en masse, and we're grateful. But now we're at the point of a reality check."

Mexico Beach only received its first reimbursement check for $2.4 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency in February, more than four months after the storm hit.

The timing of Hurricane Michael made a difference, coming as it did right before the midterm election and the Camp Fire in California, which diverted the public's attention, said Sharon Council Tyler, executive director of the American Red Cross chapter in Tallahassee.

The location was just as important. Unlike Houston after Hurricane Harvey or major cities in South Florida affected by Hurricane Irma, the small Panhandle towns hit by Michael have less visibility and fewer resources to make their plight known.

Lori Hogan lost her home in the hurricane. She is now living in a tent in the backyard of a Good Samaritan.

"It's awful. It's really awful," she said. "It's like people have forgotten about everything here."

___

Follow Mike Schneider on Twitter at https://twitter.com/MikeSchneiderAP

Read More

The Latest News Headlines

  • Jacksonville Fire and Rescue said multiple people were injured in a morning crash involving a semi truck and a van on I-295 southbound near Roosevelt.  According to JFRD, none of the injuries appeared to be serious. Traffic is at a standstill leaving Orange Park, and traffic across the Buckman Bridge northbound is delayed.  Listen to First Alert Traffic updates every 6 minutes during Jacksonville’s Morning News 104.5 FM. 
  • Northeast Florida Representatives are reacting to the Special Counsel findings of no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.  The Special Counsel states that ‘while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him’.  Republican John Rutherford said it is shameful that the Special Counsel was unwilling to clearly state that the president did not obstruct justice despite finding no evidence whatsoever that the president acted with ‘corrupt intent’.   Senator Marco Rubio indicated he’s glad that the concluded there was no collusion, and jabbed Democrats for their reaction. 
  • Here is the letter Barr sent to leaders in Congress after he received the results of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible Russian Collusion during the 2016 presidential election. Dear Chairman Graham, Chairman Nadler, Ranking Member Feinstein, and Ranking Member Collins: I write to notify you pursuant to 28 C.F.R. 600.9(a)(3) that Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III has concluded his investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election and related matters. In addition to this notification, the Special Counsel regulations require that I provide you with “a description and explanation of instances (if any) in which the Attorney General” or acting Attorney General “concluded that a proposed action by a Special Counsel was so inappropriate or unwarranted under established Departmental practices that it should not be pursued.” 28 C.F.R. 600.9(a)(3). There were no such instances during the Special Counsel’s investigation. The Special Counsel has submitted to me today a “confidential report explaining the prosecution or declination decisions” he has reached, as required by 28 C.F.R. 600.8(c). I am reviewing the report and anticipate that I may be in a position to advise you of the Special Counsel’s principal conclusions as soon as this weekend. Separately, I intend to consult with Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein and Special Counsel Mueller to determine what other information from the report can be released to Congress and the public consistent with the law, including the Special Counsel regulations, and the Department’s long-standing practices and policies. I remain committed to as much transparency as possible, and I will keep you informed as to the status of my review. Finally, the Special Counsel regulations provide that “the Attorney General may determine that public release of” this notification “would be in the public interest.” 28 C.F.R. 600.9(c) I have so determined, and I will disclose this letter to the public after delivering it to you. Sincerely, William P. Barr Attorney General
  • A New Jersey man accused of killing his wife, throwing her body in their pool and then driving to Applebee’s for food to set up his alibi has taken a plea deal in the case, prosecutors said.  Norman F. Long, 53, of Woolwich Township, pleaded guilty earlier this month to first-degree aggravated manslaughter, according to NJ.com. The plea deal struck with Gloucester County prosecutors requires Long to serve at least 85 percent of his sentence before he becomes eligible for parole. Prosecutors are recommending a 15-year sentence, NJ.com reported. As part of the agreement, charges of tampering with evidence and obstruction of justice have been dropped.  Long is scheduled for sentencing May 3.  >> Read more trending news Gloucester County prosecutors said at the time of Long’s arrest that the body of his wife, Michelle Long, 47, was pulled from the swimming pool at their home on June 17, 2017. Norman Long claimed that he had gone to pick up dinner and came home to find that his wife had apparently drowned in the pool. “According to an investigator’s affidavit of probable cause, Norman Long and neighbors were at poolside when the investigator arrived at 8:35 p.m. (that night), performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation on Michelle Long,” a 2017 news release from prosecutors said. “Norman Long ‘became combative’ while CPR was being administered and had to be restrained, the neighbors said.” A small dog was also found dead in the water.  Michelle Long’s autopsy showed that she had not drowned but instead died of blunt force trauma. Her death was ruled a homicide, prosecutors said.  Investigators spent just over six weeks investigating Michelle Long’s killing before arresting Norman Long on Aug. 1, 2017. He was charged with first-degree murder for “using physical force to cause blunt head and neck trauma” to his wife, the news release said. “It was a violent attack by him,” Gloucester County prosecutor Sean Dalton said during Norman Long’s first court appearance in August, NBC10 in Philadelphia reported. “The medical examiner found that there was bruising on her hands, consistent with defensive wounds. There was a struggle.” He was also charged with concealing evidence by “disposing (of) paper towels containing the blood of Michelle Long in the kitchen trashcan” and obstructing justice by throwing the blood-stained towels away and putting his wife’s body in the swimming pool, prosecutors said.  According to NJ.com, investigators believe Michelle Long may have been planning to leave her husband of 15 years. The last search she did on her computer, just minutes before her death, was a search for houses.  “This is what happened as a result of him finding out about that,” Dalton said during Long’s August appearance, NBC10 reported.  A timeline of the crime given in court last August alleged that Norman Long said his wife was on the computer when he left between 6:30 and 7 p.m. to pick up dinner at Applebee’s, NJ.com reported then. Prosecutors argued, however, that the timeline did not correspond with evidence. Michelle Long’s search for homes ended at 6:11 p.m., prosecutors said.  Surveillance footage from a nearby business’s security camera showed Norman Long driving by a carwash and then heading back home before going to Applebee’s, where the restaurant’s own footage shows him inside from 7:15 to 7:37 p.m., NJ.com reported. He against drove by the carwash headed for home at 7:47 p.m. The 911 call reporting Michelle Long’s death was received at 8:02 p.m. Norman Long was taken to a state psychiatric hospital for evaluation following his Aug. 1 arrest because he was expressing suicidal thoughts, prosecutors said.  NBC10 reported last year that the defendant’s first court appearance was delayed because he had an emotional breakdown in the jail. Sources told the news station Long physically fought being removed from his cell and had to be forcibly taken to his hearing. He was quiet once he was in the courtroom, the news station reported.  Michelle Long’s daughter, Brittany Maguire, said at the time of her stepfather’s arrest that her family was torn apart. “She was definitely the best mom, and she did not deserve this at all,” Maguire said during a news conference attended by NJ.com reporters. “We are all broken without her.” Since Michelle Long’s death, her mother and her daughters have partnered with a company called ROAR for Good, which makes a wearable personal safety device that, if activated by the touch of a button, shares the user’s location via text to a previously chosen list of contacts. It is designed to let people know if a loved one is in danger.  It can also emit a high-frequency alarm to scare away assailants, NJ.com reported. The family sells the devices, inscribed with Long’s nickname, “Chel,” on a website they created called guardianangelchel.com.  “We wanted to direct our energy into something positive, meaningful, and honor my daughter's life and leave a lasting legacy for her,' her mother, Susan Direso, told NJ.com last year. 'Chel was my joy, my little girl, and to lose her in such a brutal way broke my heart forever. This mission to help at-risk victims gives us a purpose to turn our tragedy into a meaningful project.”
  • As JEA considers several different designs and locations for a new Downtown headquarters, WOKV has learned they’re trying to build the facility without changing your rates. To do that, they may take on some big real estate sales. JEA has put together a “Real Estate Optimization Initiative”, where they have identified parcels for which they have no current or anticipated future use. According to documents from a planned presentation to the Board of Directors, four properties have already been identified and are either being appraised or have an appraisal planned. The list includes sites on Atlantic, Normandy, Talleyrand, and the existing HQ.  Those initial four are valued around $32.5 million, but JEA projects they could sell for as much as $65 million. Several other sites could follow, with a value of more than $100 million. Senior leadership envisions using that revenue to offset the cost of a new Downtown headquarters, and the documents project that would mean not having to look at customer rates to fund the facility. Off Southside and Atlantic sits the former Coggin Automotive dealership site. JEA acquired that property in 2011 to aid construction under the Total Water Management Plan, which involved a water transmission pipeline. Because that project has now been completed, JEA says they have no use for the roughly five acre property, although they would retain an easement for the underground utilities that were installed. A second site is 250 acres in the Cecil Commerce Center off Normandy Boulevard. JEA’s overall claim right now is 305 acres, but that involves an electric substation, water treatment plant, and other improvements and restrictions. JEA’s analysis has determined they can reduce their acreage, and would then be in a good position to sell a “prime commercial/industrial parcel”, according to the Board packet. In the Talleyrand area is the third property, of which JEA is considering selling 30-36 of its 48 acres. This faces up to the St. Johns River, and could therefore be attractive for industrial maritime development, according to JEA. They would retain the land that has improvements on the site- including two combustion turbine generators- and sell the rest, under the initiative. Finally, JEA has identified their current Downtown headquarters as a property to potentially sell. The Board documents note that JEA could sell and then lease the property back, until they’re prepared to move in to the new HQ. It’s expected to take more than two years to get the new building up and JEA moved in. This campus is actually three separate lots, which includes parking. The current HQ needs substantial repair, and is too large for JEA’s current needs. A September 2016 assessment- which WOKV was told is the most recent comprehensive assessment of the Tower- showed renovating the structure as it stands was at that time expected to cost between $65.3 million and $78.2 million. Problems identified with the Tower include everything from efficiencies, like the poor floor plan, to systems problems, like plumbing, electrical, and security. Just last month, parts of nine floors in the 19-story Tower experienced flooding because of several different building issues. The cost of the repairs and cleanup in that case was around $60,000. JEA’s Board of Directors has been weighing three proposals for a new Downtown HQ, and they’re expected to vote next month on which plan to move forward with. The cost of each of the proposals has not been made public, nor is it clear at this time how much of that bill the real estate sales could cover. GALLERY: JEA HQ proposal at Lot J by TIAA Bank Field GALLERY: JEA HQ proposal at Kings Avenue Station on the Southbank GALLERY: JEA HQ proposal on West Adams Street by the County Courthouse JEA says an appraisal is underway at the Atlantic site, and the other three properties have appraisals pending. While these four properties have been identified at this point, JEA says they could pursue others, including two thousand acres at the former St. Johns River Power Park, around two dozen small surplus properties, and surplus areas on existing tracts. JEA further projects they would incur operations and maintenance savings by not having to do landscaping, security, and related areas at the properties they sell. For just the four parcels identified so far, that savings is estimated around $1 million annually. The process involves first appraising the properties, and then offering them to other government agencies at appraised value, according to JEA. If there is interest, that’s where the sale would be, but if not, there would be a public bid process and formal award. There is no timeline for how long that process could take, but the Board would have to approve any sale over $500,000, and the Board and City Council would have to approve any sale under assessed value. The Board will be presented this initiative for discussion Tuesday, although they will not have to take any action at this point. Leasing or partnering in development on properties could also be considered, although the Board packet shows JEA’s leadership studied that and determined selling the sites would be the best move economically.

The Latest News Videos