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Citizens In Work Mode After Hurricane Michael Hits Panama City

Even with a clear path out of town, some residents decided to stay and wait for the electricity and water to return.

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Hurricane
Johnny Gonzalez saws through a downed tree in Panama City, Fla., some of the destruction left by Hurricane Michael.. VOA

Armed with a chain saw, Panama City resident Johnny Gonzalez was sawing through as many fallen trees as it takes to clear roadways and driveways.

Hurricane Michael left a path of destruction, downing trees and power lines. In the coastal town of Panama City, near where the hurricane made landfall, some residents were still trapped in their homes, surrounded by fallen trees.

Gonzalez knows the feeling of helplessness. He went to a church to seek shelter from the hurricane and thought it was safe, until the hurricane blew the roof off. He is just glad his children are safe.

‘By the grace of God’

“By the grace of God, we made it out of there somehow. I don’t know how we got lucky; they said we had tornadoes hit us. With the winds we couldn’t even tell. I remember hearing a whistling sound like a train was coming, and the roof was just sucked up from the church we were in,” Gonzalez said.

Hurricane
Fallen trees on homes are a common sight in Panama City, Fla., as part of the path of destruction left by Hurricane Michael.

He made it home with his family, but the situation was not good. He called his boss, Lee Nettles, for help. Nettles, the manager of a beach resort community about 80 miles away, heard Gonzalez’s voicemail.

“We got a call from him. Just a voicemail. All we heard is that ‘we were trapped and we need water. Help!’ Amanda said, ‘I’m going to get him,’ and I said, ‘OK, I’m going with you.’ And we found him and his wife and his two kids,” Nettles said.

Nettles’ co-worker is Amanda Miles, director of security at the beach resort. Gonzalez is the assistant director.

“When I needed help they come and rescued me. They sacrificed their life for me and now I’m going to sacrifice mine for my town people,” Gonzalez said.

Helping their community

The team of three decided to hit the road and offer help to others in the community who did not evacuate. In many parts of town, there is no power or water. Debris, destroyed buildings, downed trees and power lines were everywhere.

Hurricane
Fallen trees on homes are a common sight in Panama City, Fla., as part of the path of destruction left by Hurricane Michael. VOA

“I don’t care how strong you are, this is tough to witness. Total destruction,” Nettles said.

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The team of three first started by going from street to street offering water, “and then on the way, Amanda said, ‘Let’s pick up a chain saw,’ so what the heck, I’ve never used a chain saw until today,” Nettles said.

Even with a clear path out of town, some residents decided to stay and wait for the electricity and water to return. It may be weeks if not months before things get back to normal again, (VOA)

Next Story

US Health Officials Prepare to Battle Flu Season as Coronavirus Fear Rises

US Prepares for Second Wave of Flu as Coronavirus Fears Rise

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Coronavirus
While there have only been 15 confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States as of Friday, health officials have expressed concern that if the virus were to spread in the country. Pixabay

U.S. health officials are preparing for a second wave of the winter flu season, complicated this year by similarities between flu symptoms and those of the coronavirus that has killed more than 1,500 in China and spread fear around the world.

A first round of seasonal flu, caused by a strain of influenza B, named B-Victoria for the city in which it was discovered, peaked in the United States in late December and then dropped off, according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

However, the CDC says a second round of flu began in late January, caused by a strain of influenza A that is related to the swine flu that first appeared in 2009, and cases continue to increase.

Coronavirus
Cesar Gonzalez reacts to getting an influenza vaccine shot at Eastfield College in Mesquite, Texas. VOA

While there have only been 15 confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States as of Friday, health officials have expressed concern that if the virus were to spread in the country, it could initially look like the spread of seasonal flu.

Coronavirus testing

In part to address these concerns, U.S. health officials announced they would begin testing some patients who have flulike symptoms for coronavirus in several U.S. cities.

The testing will initially be carried out by public health labs in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago and New York, which are already testing for seasonal flu.

Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, told reporters in a telephone briefing Friday that labs will conduct the coronavirus test on patients who show flulike respiratory symptoms, but who test negative for the seasonal flu.

Both the seasonal flu and coronavirus cause respiratory illness, fever and cough. Other typical flu symptoms include sore throat, muscle aches, runny nose and fatigue, according to the CDC.

While scientists have studied the flu for decades, little is known about this coronavirus, dubbed COVID-19, because it is so new. Health officials are still trying to understand all the symptoms related to the new virus, as well has how it spreads and how often cases are severe. There have been few studies on the symptoms of coronavirus, however, research suggests patients most commonly suffer from fever, cough and shortness of breath and are less likely than flu patients to suffer from a sore throat and runny nose.

To prevent the spread of the coronavirus to the United States, CDC officials have put in place travel restrictions and quarantine policies for people who recently visited China. However, officials say that strategy would change if the virus were to spread quickly in the United States.

Messonnier said if there were an outbreak of coronavirus in the United States, the CDC would call for “social distancing” strategies that would include online schooling, teleworking, and canceling mass gatherings, in an effort to prevent people from spreading the virus.

Coronavirus
Passengers arrive at LAX from Shanghai, China, after a positive case of the coronavirus was announced in the Orange County suburb of Los Angeles, California, U.S. VOA

Flu kills 14,000 in US

While health officials put plans in place for any possible outbreak of coronavirus, doctors around the United States continue to help patients battle the seasonal flu. The CDC estimates that 26 million Americans have gotten sick with flu this season and around people 14,000 have died.

Health officials say the first wave of the flu, a B strain, has hit children particularly hard this season, causing 92 deaths in children. B strains are more likely to cause a more severe illness and death in children. Cases of the flu among the elderly have been down this season.

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The CDC says concern about coronavirus might have prompted more people with flu symptoms to go their doctor for testing this season, although they say there is nothing in their data to confirm this. Messonnier said if more people are going to the doctor that is a good thing. “

People being a little worried and seeking care doesn’t especially worry me, because that’s the point,” she said. (VOA)