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Powerful Storm Kills at Least 2 in Florida Panhandle – The New York Times

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At least two others were injured, the authorities said. The damage came a day after a tornado destroyed buildings and left several injured in Arkansas.
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At least two people were killed and two others were injured when a severe storm destroyed homes and toppled trees in the Florida Panhandle early on Thursday morning, officials said.
Mark Wool, warning coordination meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Tallahassee, said the two people who were killed lived in a mobile home in Washington County that was destroyed early Thursday morning.

“It was the middle of the night and they obviously either didn’t receive the warning or didn’t have any way to shelter from it,” Mr. Wool said. “People in mobile homes really don’t have any protection against tornadoes.”

Mr. Wool said a radar showed a tornado in the area around 4:10 a.m., but the Weather Service could not provide an official confirmation of a tornado until investigators visited the scene on Friday. “We are highly confident that it was a tornado and the damage pictures I’ve seen so far are consistent with that,” Mr. Wool said.

The storm also “severely damaged” a brick home in Washington County and toppled a tanker truck on Interstate 10 in Jackson County, Mr. Wool said.

Kristy Kolmetz, the public information officer for the Washington County Sheriff’s Office in northwestern Florida, said a tornado had caused significant damage about seven miles outside Chipley, Fla.

“In that area, there was total destruction of homes, and there were several downed power lines and downed debris on the roadways,” Ms. Kolmetz said.

The Washington County School District closed on Thursday because of the threat of severe weather.

Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida said on Twitter that his office had received reports of severe weather in Washington and Jackson Counties and that the Florida Division of Emergency Management was there to help local officials.

The high winds and heavy rains in Florida were part of a line of thunderstorms that traveled across the South overnight and into Thursday.

The storms moved east from Mississippi, Alabama and northwestern Arkansas, where at least seven people were injured, two critically, when a tornado touched down on Wednesday.
Mayor Doug Sprouse of Springdale, Ark., the town where the seven people were injured, declared an emergency there on Wednesday. “Many residents have been displaced from their homes and numerous businesses have reported significant damages,” Mr. Sprouse said in a statement.

The Weather Service said the line of storms were continuing to move east on Thursday and could cause severe thunderstorms and isolated tornadoes from Florida to New England.
Bob Oravec, a lead forecaster for the Weather Service, said that on Thursday, “there is a chance for severe weather from the Florida Panhandle across pretty much the entire East Coast.”

Parts of the Carolinas, Maryland and Virginia were under tornado watches Thursday evening. The National Weather Service also said that scattered severe thunderstorms would move through the Northeast. Portions of Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and Washington, D.C., were instructed to stay on alert for strong winds, hail and tornadoes until 10 p.m., while parts of Delaware, New Jersey and New York should brace for winds up to 70 miles per hour and possibly “a tornado or two” until midnight.

The Weather Service advised people in the affected areas to secure loose items and warned that there could be power outages and downed trees.

More than 15,000 customers were without power in Virginia Thursday evening, as well as 13,000 customers in Mississippi, 11,000 in North Carolina and 11,000 in Tennessee, according to PowerOutage.US, a website that aggregates data from utilities.

Claire Fahy contributed reporting.


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Erdogan unveils Turkey’s first astronaut on election trail

Turkey’s first astronaut will travel to the International Space Station by the end of the year, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Saturday after an illness forced him to cancel several days of appearances.

Air force pilot Alper Gezeravci, 43, was selected to be the first Turkish citizen in space. His backup is Tuva Cihangir Atasever, 30, an aviation systems engineer at Turkish defense contractor Roketsan.

Erdogan made the announcement at the Teknofest aviation and space fair in Istanbul, the president’s first public appearance since falling ill during a TV interview on Tuesday. He appeared alongside Azerbaijan’s president, Ilham Aliyev, and Libya’s interim prime minister, Abdul Hamid Dbeibeh.

“Our friend, who will go on Turkey’s first manned space mission, will stay on the International Space Station for 14 days,” Erdogan said. “Our astronaut will perform 13 different experiments prepared by our country’s esteemed universities and research institutions during this mission.”

Erdogan described Gezeravci as a “heroic Turkish pilot who has achieved significant success in our Air Force Command.”

The Turkish Space Agency website describes Gezeravci as a 21-year air force veteran and F-16 pilot who attended the U.S. Air Force Institute of Technology.

Wearing a red flight jacket, Erdogan appeared in robust health as he addressed crowds at the festival. Turkey’s presidential and parliamentary elections are scheduled for May 14, and opinion polls show Erdogan in potentially his toughest race since he came to power two decades ago.

Turkey is dealing with a prolonged economic downturn, and the government received criticism after a February earthquake killed more than 50,000 in the country. Experts blamed the high death toll in part on shoddy construction and law enforcement of building codes.

While campaigning for reelection, Erdogan has unveiled a number of prestigious projects, such as Turkey’s first nuclear power plant and the delivery of natural gas from Black Sea reserves.


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Israelis rally for 17th week against judicial overhaul plans

Tens of thousands of Israelis protested judicial overhaul proposals Saturday in the 17th weekly rally against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s governing coalition.

The demonstrations have been ongoing since the beginning of the year, and organizers plan to continue, despite Netanyahu delaying the changes last month. The leaders of the mass protests want the proposals scrapped altogether.

“We are just getting started,” read a banner that demonstrators held at the main protest in Tel Aviv, Israel’s economic hub. Smaller demonstrations were reported in several parts of the country.

Spanish Prime Minister and Socialist leader Pedro Sanchez voiced support to the Israeli antigovernment protesters in a video message aired on a large screen in Tel Aviv.

We as Socialist International have always fought for freedom, equality, justice, and democracy. Yet, as many of you know, these are values that we cannot take for granted,” Sanchez said.

Protesters argue the proposed changes threaten Israel’s democratic values, hurting a system of checks and balances and concentrating authority in the hands of Netanyahu and his extremist allies.

They also say that the prime minister has a conflict of interest in trying to reshape the nation’s legal system at a time when he is on trial.

Such changes would result in weakening the Supreme Court, giving parliament, which is controlled by Netanyahu’s allies, authority to overturn its rulings and limiting its ability to review laws.

The protest gained support from the military’s elite reserve force, businesses, and large sectors of the Israeli community. But on Thursday, tens of thousands of right-wing Israelis who support the legal



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‘Total nightmare:’ As Florida insurance companies go insolvent, homeowners pay the price

Seminole county couple has three-year open claim because of insolvent insurer.

What happens when your property insurer goes out of business?

It is happening quite a bit in Florida and is leading to all policyholders paying more.

The Florida Insurance Guaranty is adding a 1% assessment to policyholders starting in October to cover claims for insolvent companies.

A Seminole County couple has lived without a fully functioning kitchen for three years because their insurer went out of business.

Sandra Braga Alfonso said what started as a leak under her sink has turned into a three-year nightmare.

She said there was already a fight with her insurer to pay out the claim, but then the company went under and it got worse.

Alfonso has a fridge and an oven but is missing lower cabinets, a stove, her normal sink, and a dishwasher.

“It has been a total nightmare,” Alfonso said.

It started in December of 2019 with a leak under her sink, she said.

She eventually discovered water in all her lower cabinets and in the sheetrock behind the cabinets, she said.

“The insurance company gave us approval to rip everything out that was damaged and now they don’t want to pay to put it back in,” Alfonso said.

The insurance company cut a check for $4,800, she said.

Of that $4,300 went to water mitigation to prevent mold. That left about $500, not nearly enough to replace her kitchen, she said.

“We’ve tried to settle, go to mediation, everything,” she said.

Finally, Alfonso and her husband filed a lawsuit against her insurer, but after two years of hearings and motions and waiting for a court date, her insurer went out of business.

She was with Capitol Insurance, but according to the Florida Department of Financial Services, Capitol was merged into Southern Fidelity, which is now one of 14 companies in liquidation.

“I’m over it. I just want my kitchen. I just want to be able to live again. I love to cook, and I can’t,” Alfonso said.

In the last year, Florida lawmakers have had three special legislative sessions to deal with Florida’s property insurance crises.

News 6 asked Alfonso if she thinks anything is being done in Tallahassee to help consumers with their insurance issues.

“No, it’s all for the insurance company,” she said.

One of the biggest moves made in Tallahassee over the last year is the legislature doing away with what is referred to as “one-way attorney’s fees.”

That means if you sued your insurer over a claim and won, the insurance company had to pay your attorney’s fees. Without it, Alfonso said she would never have been able to sue her insurer even though in her case, it didn’t do any good.

No. My husband’s retired. He’s on disability and he’s retired we’re on a fixed income,” Alfonso said.

Alfonso has now turned to the Florida Insurance Guaranty Association, which handles the claims of insolvent property and casualty insurance companies.

They are still negotiating the amount it will take to fix her kitchen — more than three years later.

“I owned my first home when I was 20-something years old,” Alfonso said. “I’ve been paying my insurance premiums since I’m like 25, never filed a claim and look where I am now,” Alfonso said.


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