As people in Florida are struggling with the aftermath of Hurricane Michael, a Jacksonville man is wanted on allegations of defrauding FEMA of thousands of dollars.
Lepoleon Spikes is accused of claiming damage to different homes in Jacksonville for three separate storms.
A grand jury indictment claims he provided FEMA with fraudulent lease agreements as proof of damage.
Documents say Spikes was awarded thousands of dollars after Hurricanes Matthew and Irma, as well as Tropical Storm Debby.
“You’re taking from people and families that really need the money,” said Scherlinda Bennett, who says her home was flooded during both Matthew and Irma.
ActionNewsJax went to one of the homes where Spikes supposedly lived, but learned that was years ago. The home’s current owner claims it never had storm damage.
Hurricane Michael battered Florida's Panhandle on Wednesday, bringing with it destructive 155 mph winds and life-threatening storm surge.
Its winds ripped apart homes, and feet of storm surge left homes underwater.
Photos and video from the Panama City area show the path of destruction left behind by the near-Category 5 storm.
Check them out below:
President Donald Trump is likely to visit storm-ravaged areas of Florida and Georgia hit by Hurricane Michael early next week, White House officials told reporters aboard Air Force One on Wednesday.
The president spoke with Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal and Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey during the flight to receive updates on the storm, which barreled into Florida on Wednesday and pounded parts of south and middle Georgia with rain and wind.
The White House said Trump “offered any federal resources necessary and continues to receive regular updates.”
Only a few storms have made landfall in the United States stronger than Hurricane Michael. Only three Category 5 storms have ever hit the continental United States; Hurricane Katrina, a Category 3, was not one of them.
Before meteorologists and weather experts named storms, a Category 5 hurricane hit the Florida Keys on Labor Day 1935. That storm holds the record with winds of a staggering 185 miles per hour.
The second-worst storm to hit the continental U.S. was Hurricane Camille, which hit far western Mississippi in 1969 as a Category 5 storm.
The third-worst storm on the list is one still fresh in the minds of many Floridians: Hurricane Andrew, which hit South Florida in August 1992. The storm tore through Homestead as a Category 5 with winds peaking at 165 miles per hour.
That brings us to the present with Hurricane Michael, which is now the fourth-strongest hurricane in U.S. history.
When it comes to hurricanes that hit Florida’s Panhandle, Michael’s wind speed at landfall surpassed Hurricane Opal, which was the previous record holder. Opal made landfall near Pensacola as a Category 3 in 1995.
Nine people died in Hurricane Opal, and the damage totaled more than $4.7 billion.
Michael is stronger still than Hurricane Irma when it slammed into the Keys in 2017 with winds of 130 miles per hour – and Michael’s winds are three times stronger than what Central Florida experienced from Irma.
One comparison that will resonate with people is to last year’s “M” hurricane, Maria, which devastated Puerto Rico and killed thousands. Maria made landfall over southeast Puerto Rico with winds of 155 miles per hour – the same intensity as Michael when it hit Mexico Beach, Florida, on Wednesday, though the eye of Maria was slightly larger, which allowed for more widespread damage.
Vice President Mike Pence canceled his Thursday visit to Georgia to host a high-dollar GOP fundraiser as Hurricane Michael roared through the state.
It was the second time the Republican was forced to scrap a visit to Georgia to boost Brian Kemp’s run for governor due to a major storm. He canceled a September visit because Hurricane Florence was barreling toward the Southeast.
He was set to visit Delta’s TechOps maintenance facility before heading to the Grand Hyatt Buckhead for the Georgia GOP’s Victory Dinner. Democrats planned to greet him with a large rally outside the hotel featuring supporters of Democrat Stacey Abrams.
He was likely to face a cascade of criticism if he went through the trip, similar to the pushback President Donald Trump faced for traveling to a political rally for a Pennsylvania lawmaker shortly after the hurricane made landfall.
Trump said the decision to go was a “quandary” but that he did not want to disappoint the crowd expecting him.
“I hear they have thousands of people lined up, so we are in a little bit of a quagmire," he said.
At least 14 people were killed and almost 200 injured when a 5.9-magnitude earthquake struck northern Haiti Saturday night, Reuters reported.
Update 6:35 p.m. EDT Oct. 7: As the death toll in Haiti rises, a 5.2-magnitude aftershock rattled the northern part of the island nation, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, a day after more than a dozen people were killed by a strong earthquake.
Emergency response efforts were underway Sunday in the harder-hit areas of Port-de-Paix, Gros-Morne, the town of Chansolme and the northern island of Tortuga, according to a statement from Haiti’s civil protection agency, Reuters reported.
“The shock was felt across all departments of the country, giving rise to panic in several towns,” agency officials said.
Parts of Haiti are still recovering from a powerful 2010 earthquake that decimated the island and killed as many as 230,000 people.
Update 11:10 a.m. EDT Oct. 7: Haiti’s civil protection agency said in a statement that the hardest-hit areas are Port-de-Paix, Gros Morne, Chansolme and Turtle Island, The Associated Press reported. The quake has left 135 people injured The AP reported.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the quake, which hit about 8:11 p.m. EDT, occurred 11.8 miles northwest of Port-de-Paix and about 7.3 miles under the surface. Police said at least seven people died near the epicenter of the quake, Reuters reported.
Haiti is “especially vulnerable to earthquakes,” The Associated Press reported. A 7.1-magnitude quake in 2010 killed hundreds of thousands of people there.
Floodwaters and standing water are often contaminated, posing several risks, such as infectious diseases, chemical hazards and injuries.
Here are six sicknesses you should beware of in the aftermath:Diarrheal diseases
Drinking or eating anything that has come in contact with floodwaters can lead to cryptosporidiosis, E. coli or giardiasis. While cryptosporidiosis and giardiasis are brought on by parasites, E. coli is caused by bacteria.
Symptoms from each include diarrhea, gas, nausea and vomiting. Cryptosporidiosis, however, can even be fatal for those with weakened immune systems, such as AIDS or cancer.Wound infections
Open wounds and rashes that are exposed to floodwater can cause tetanus or Vibrio vulnificus. Tetanus is a bacterial infection, and it can enter the body through breaks in the skin like a cut.
Vibrio vulnificus, another bacteria, can be contracted the same way. Many people become infected by consuming undercooked shellfish or exposing an injury to brackish or salt water.Other illnesses
People affected by flooded areas can also get trench foot. It occurs when your feet are wet for long periods of time. It can cause pain, swelling and numbness.
You should also be aware of chemical hazards from materials that may have spilled into the water. And be cautious of electrical hazards, since there are puddles that may be electrified due to fallen power lines.
Curious about other diseases you can catch? Take a look at the full list at CDC’s official website.
They were in the right place at the right time.
Reporter Chris Jose and photojournalist Brandon Bryant with Atlanta's WSB-TV, which is owned by Cox Media Group, have been in South Carolina covering what is now tropical depression Florence. The two are making their way to Fayetteville, North Carolina, to cover the flooding and damage left by the storm there.
They were driving up Interstate 95 when they found the roadway flooded over around Latta, South Carolina.
Jose said they decided to take some of the back country roads to get around the flooding when they ran across a woman who was stuck inside her car, with floodwater rapidly rising up around it.
The two said the woman was yelling, "Help me! Help me!” The area was under a tornado warning, adding to the already dangerous situation.
Knowing they had to do something, Jose said he drove their SUV as far as they could into the water without getting stuck and Bryant, wearing a pair of waders, got out into the water, which was about waist-deep.
When Bryant got to the woman’s car, he found Barbara Flanagan inside, praying.
"It just pulled me in and I couldn’t stop it. I had my foot on the brake, but it wouldn’t stop," Flanagan said.
Bryant said he told Flanagan he was going to open the door and that water was going to come flooding in, be she was going to be alright.
He got the door open and was able to grab the woman and help her out her car.
"I couldn't leave you out there," Bryant told the woman. “My heart wouldn’t allow me.”
As they made their way through the floodwaters, Flanagan told Bryant she was from Georgia and was a worker with the USDA, who was responding to the area for storm relief.
She said some of her coworkers had taken the same route shortly before her and the road was clear.
"Looks can be deceiving," Flanagan told Jose. "Don’t go through the water."
A man in a pickup truck pulled up behind the WSB-TV crew’s SUV and offered to help get the woman’s car out of the floodwater. The woman’s car was still able to run, despite the high water.
Torrential rains, heavy winds and dangerously heavy surf battered Hawaii as Hurricane Lane churned toward the Aloha State, causing widespread flooding and prompting residents to take shelter.
Lane has weakened to a tropical storm, but authorities warn the threat of torrential rains and flooding continue.
Update 5:35 p.m. EDT Aug. 25: The National Weather Service dropped all warnings as Hurricane Lane weakened to a tropical storm and shifted direction away from Hawaii.
The storm started heading west, sparing Honolulu from much of the impact, although heavy rains have hit the chain of islands for the last two days.
Flash flooding and heavy rains will continue to be a threat throughout the weekend, officials said. The Big Island and Maui are expected to get up to 10 inches of rainfall. Already, 20 to 30 inches of rain has been recorded on parts of Big Island.
Update 2:25 p.m. EDT Aug. 25: Forecasters report that winds have died down but rain remains a threat on some Hawaiian Islands as tropical storm Lane churns in the central Pacific.
Vanessa Almanza, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said up to 10 inches of rain could fall Saturday as the storm remains about 110 miles south of Honolulu and moves north at 3 mph.
Lane is expected to turn west later in the day, which would lessen the threat to the islands.
Almanza said Maui has had about 12 inches of rain and wind gusts up to 50 miles per hour within the last 24 hours, which caused landslides, washed out roads and downed power lines.
On Oahu, where Honolulu is located, only about 2.3 inches of rain has fallen.
Even so, federal officials said Hawaii residents shouldn’t let their guard down, as torrential rain is expected throughout the next 48 hours.
Update 8:34 a.m. EDT Aug. 25: The Hawaii National Weather Service has issued a flash flood warning for Hawaii County as heavy rains continue Saturday, with one to two inches falling per hour.
While the rainfall has eased, runoff and flooding continue in the Hamakua and Hilo districts.
Several major highways and roads remain closed.
People are advised to remain indoors.
President Donald Trump said he is continuing to monitor the situation, tweeting that the federal government is “fully committed” to helping Hawaii.
Update 5:47 a.m. EDT Aug. 25: Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell said Friday his city “dodged a bullet” as Tropical Storm Lane continued to weaken, Hawaii News Now reported.
As of 11 p.m. Friday, the storm’s winds had decreased to 65 mph and was moving slowly northwest at 3 mph.
While the storm is expected to become a remnant low as early as Saturday, forecasters warned that excessive rainfall remains a possibility throughout the islands over the weekend, Hawaii News Now reported.
Update 3:22 a.m. EDT Aug. 25: Tropical Storm Lane is wobbling and nearly stationary as it continues to pound the Hawaiian islands with rain and damaging winds.
According to National Weather Service forecaster Tom Birchard, the storm’s winds remain at 70 mph. The center of the storm is about 150 miles south-southwest of Honolulu.
Heavy rains continued to fall on the Big Island at a rate of 4 inches per hour, The Star-Advertiser of Honolulu reported.
Update 1:30 a.m. EDT Aug. 25: Brisk winds attributable to the storm are hampering officials’ efforts to fight a wildfire in West Oahu, Hawaii News Now reported. At least 3,000 residents are without power since the blaze began just before noon Friday near the Kahe Power Plant. Fire Capt. Scot Seguirant said that because of strong winds, firefighters cannot send water drops from the air into the fire.
"It's definitely been challenging," Seguirant told Hawaii News Now.
Update 11 p.m. EDT Aug. 24: Lane weakened to a tropical storm Friday as it continued toward the Hawaiian islands as it brought torrential rains that immersed Hilo in waist-deep water.
The Central Pacific Hurricane Center downgraded the storm just after 5pm HST Friday.
Meteorologists warned Friday that heavy rains from Tropical Storm Lane could still bring more flooding and damaging winds to the island chain.
Lane was packing maximum sustained winds close to 70 mph as it churned slowly west toward Oahu.
Update 8:40 p.m. EDT Aug. 24: Hurricane Lane has been downgraded to a Category 1 storm with sustained winds of 85 mph, according to the Central Pacific Hurricane Center, but the storm has slowed down to just 2 mph.
It’s moving very slowly and continuing to cause heavy rains and high winds as it brushes the Hawaiian Islands. The storm is expected to turn in a westerly direction as it continues weakening.
Update 5:30 p.m. EDT Aug. 24: Slow-moving Hurricane Lane has weakened, but is still a Category 2 hurricane with sustained wind speeds of 105 mph, the Central Pacific Hurricane Center reported in its last update.
Lane is located about 150 miles south of Honolulu and is moving at 5 mph.
Officials with Hawaii’s Civil Defense Agency are reporting flooded roads and numerous landslides, making travel in some areas extremely dangerous.
A tropical storm warning is in effect for the Big Island, parts of which are experiencing heavy rains and flash flooding
Hurricane Lane is expected to weaken even further and make a westward turn sometime Saturday morning.
Update 2:30 p.m. EDT Aug. 24: Officials with the Hawaii Department of Transportation said several airlines canceled flights to and from Maui’s Kahului Airport on Friday as Hurricane Lane continued spinning toward Hawaii.
The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported that several airlines also canceled flights to and from Honolulu on Friday.
Update 2:15 p.m. EDT Aug. 24: Authorities told Hawaii News Now that more than 300 acres have been burned on Maui after a pair of brush fires sparked Friday on the island.
Officials were working to tamp the blazes Friday afternoon.
Update 1:05 p.m. EDT Aug. 24: An evacuation center on Maui was closed early Friday after a brush fire broke out and spread, officials told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.
The shelter, at Lahaina Intermediate School, was moved as a result of the fire, Hawaii News Now reported. The fire has spread over at least three or four acres, the news station reported.
Residents were being evacuated Friday.
Update 11 a.m. EDT Aug. 24: Lane was spinning with winds measured at 110 mph around 5 a.m. local time Friday, down 10 mph from wind speeds measured earlier in the day, according to forecasters with the Central Pacific Hurricane Center. The shift makes Lane a Category 2 storm.
The center of the hurricane was about 180 miles south of Honolulu at 5 a.m. Friday. Officials warned residents to stay safe as Lane continues to bring torrential rain to the islands.
Update 9:15 a.m. EDT Aug. 24: The center of Hurricane Lane was about 200 miles south of Honolulu early on Friday morning, forecasters with the Central Pacific Hurricane Center said in an update issued at 2 a.m. local time.
Officials said Lane remained a Category 3 storm Friday morning, with maximum sustained winds measured near 120 mph. Forecasters warned that rain would continue Friday, with some areas predicted to see as many as 40 inches of rain. More than two feet of rain had already fallen across some parts of the islands by late Thursday night.
Lane is expected to move over or "dangerously close" to parts of the Hawaiian Islands later Friday through Saturday, according to the Central Pacific Hurricane Center.
Update 5:41 a.m. EDT Aug. 24: Hurricane Lane has dumped nearly 2 feet of rain on the Big Island. According to the Central Pacific Hurricane Center, the storm is slowly moving north at 6 mph and is 165 miles southwest of Kailua-Kona and 345 miles south of Honolulu. Maximum sustained winds are 120 mph for the Category 3 storm.
Update 4 a.m. EDT Aug. 24: A flash flood warning for the Big Island was extended until 12:45 a.m. local time Friday, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported.
The Hawaii County Civil Defense reported that the Reeds Island area of Hilo along the Wailuku River are being evacuated, the newspaper reported.
The weather service reported that the Wailuku River has risen about 5 feet between 6-9 p.m. Thursday.
Update 11:00 p.m. EDT Aug. 23: Hurricane Lane dumped more than 18 inches of rain on Hilo Thursday, in the eastern area of Hawaii’s Big Island. The Hilo Airport saw 15 inches, according to Hawaii News Now.
The National Weather Service is warning about the potential for flash flooding and landslides as the slow-moving hurricane tracks toward the Pacific island chain.
The Central Pacific Hurricane Center shows a portion of Lane possibly making landfall on several of the islands by Friday afternoon, but the storm could take a turn, barely brushing land, weather forecasts show.
The Category 3 storm weakened Thursday with wind speeds dropping to 120 miles an hour, NOAA reported.
Update 8:27 p.m. EDT Aug. 23: The National Weather Service downgraded the storm to a Category 3 Thursday evening.
The center of the hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 130 mph was expected to move close to or over portions of the main islands later Thursday or Friday, bringing dangerous surf and a storm surge of up to 4 feet , forecasters said.
Update: 7:15 p.m. EDT Aug. 23: Flash flood warnings are posted on parts of the Big Island as the outer bands of the slow-moving Hurricane Lane lash the island with torrential rains and high winds.
The storm could have “life-threatening impacts” on the islands, The New York Times reported, citing the National Weather Service.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency warned that Hurricane Lane is posing a destructive threat to the islands.
“Hawaii is going to be impacted by Hurricane Lane, the question is how bad,” FEMA head Brock Long said Thursday, the Times reported.
“We’re extremely concerned about the potentials for inland flooding, landslides occurring, and damage to the transportation, communications infrastructure,” Long said.
Update 1:55 p.m. EDT Aug. 23: Officials with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Wednesday that despite Hawaii’s position in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, “very few hurricanes have made landfall in the Aloha State.”
Historical records maintained by NOAA show “only a handful of hurricanes passing within a few hundred miles of the islands,” officials said.
In a 1993 report issued after Hurricane Iniki battered the island of Kauai one year earlier, Elbert Friday Jr., then the assistant administration for the National Weather Service, said only four hurricanes have impacted Hawaii since 1950.
Iniki was the last hurricane to make landfall on any of the islands, NOAA officials said Wednesday.
“The Big Island has never been struck by a hurricane since modern weather records began,” officials noted.
Hurricane Lane was measured as a Category 4 storm early Thursday with maximum sustained winds at 130 mph, according to NOAA's Central Pacific Hurricane Center. The center of the storm is expected to track at or very near the main Hawaiian islands from Thursday through Friday, forecasters said.
Update 9:25 a.m. EDT Aug. 23: President Donald Trump issued an emergency declaration for Hawaii on Wednesday. It authorizes the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to coordinate disaster relief efforts on the islands and mobilize federal assets as needed.
In an update issued around 2 a.m. local time Thursday, forecasters with the National Weather Service said Lane was expected to remain a hurricane as it approaches the Hawaiian Islands.
The center of the storm was expected to move over or very near the main islands later Thursday through Friday, making it the most powerful storm to hit Hawaii since Hurricane Iniki in 1992.
Officials opened shelters on the Big Island and the islands of Maui, Molokai and Lanai on Wednesday. They urged those needing to use the Molokai shelter to get there soon because of concerns the main highway could become impassable.
Update 11:00 p.m EDT Aug. 22: The outer rain bands of Hurricane Lane are lashing Hawaii’s Big Island, according to the Central Pacific Hurricane Center. The powerful storm is packing sustained winds of 145 mph and moving in a northwesterly direction at 8 mph.
The storm is predicted to bring heavy rains to parts of the island chain as it moves through the region over the next several days.
Lane weakened slightly Wednesday afternoon, but is still a major Category 4 storm.
Update 1:20 p.m. EDT Aug. 22: Officials with the Central Pacific Hurricane Center said in an update Wednesday morning that Hurricane Lane was churning with maximum sustained winds near 155 mph at 5 a.m. local time, with higher gusts.
"Some weakening is forecast during the next 48 hours, but Lane is forecast to remain a dangerous hurricane as it draws closer to the Hawaiian Islands,” CPHC forecaster Jeff Powell said in an update Wednesday morning.
Original report: A powerful hurricane hurtling toward Hawaii strengthened to a Category 5 storm Tuesday evening, sparking fears and prompting residents to flock to stores for food and supplies.
According to the National Weather Service's Central Pacific Hurricane Center, Hurricane Lane had maximum sustained winds of 160 mph by 8 p.m. HST Tuesday (2 a.m. EDT Wednesday). The center of the storm was about 320 miles south-southeast of South Point on Hawaii's Big Island.
The storm is the first Category 5 hurricane to come within 350 miles of South Point since Hurricane John in 1994, the National Weather Service's office in Honolulu tweeted Tuesday night.
Officials issued a hurricane warning Tuesday for the Big Island and watches for Oahu, Maui and other areas, "meaning tropical storm-force winds, excessive rain and large swells could arrive starting Wednesday," The Associated Press reported.
The news prompted closures of public schools and area businesses.
Forecasters expected lane to turn northwest toward the state Wednesday.
"On this forecast track, the center of Lane will move dangerously close to or over the main Hawaiian Islands from Thursday through Saturday," the hurricane center said. "Although some weakening is expected the next couple of days, Lane is forecast to remain a dangerous hurricane as it draws closer to the Hawaiian Islands."
Gov. David Ige signed an emergency proclamation ahead of the storm and urged residents to sign up for emergency alerts.
Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, warned residents to prepare for the worst.
"Don't be complacent – make sure you have your disaster preparedness kit stocked up!" she wrote.
– The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Nearly a dozen cars were swept away from an automobile dealership and floated down a river as a flash flood hit northern New Jersey on Saturday, NJ.com reported.
The Peckman River in Passaic County was overtaken by floodwaters after slightly under 5 inches of rain fell in Caldwell, NJ.com reported.
In a video posted to Facebook, taken from an overpass, cars can be seen floating down the river. They were lifted away from the Chrysler Jeep Dodge Dealership in Little Falls, WABC reported. Some of the vehicles’ sticker prices were still available on windshields, NJ.com reported.
Daniel Perrotta, whose car was being serviced at the dealership, told WABC that he immediately went to check on the vehicle.
"The only thing I can hope for is God let my vehicle still be up on the lift. If not, then it's a total loss," Perrotta told the television station.
Storms were causing flight delays at New York’s three major airports, WCBS reported.
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