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Gulf Coast School Districts Brace for Hurricane Michael

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Florida Gov. Rick Scott is asking residents in the path of a powerful approaching hurricane to take the necessary precautions, as his counterparts in Alabama and Georgia issued emergency declarations.

Scott declared a state of emergency in the stated's Panhandle and Big Bend regions on Monday. Already more than 28 of the state's countywide school districts in Hurricane Michael's path, including systems covering Pensacola and Tallahassee, are closed or are expected to close this week, some of them through Friday. Some of the schools are expected to be used as shelters.

The National Hurricane Center said that Hurricane Michael, which is expected to make landfall as a Category 4 storm on Wednesday, could generate a life-threatening storm surge along the Florida Panhandle, Big Bend, and the Nature Coast, and it's urging everyone on the Florida Gulf Coast to prepare.

The storm could cause flooding in areas stretching from the Panhandle to the Carolinas, which were drenched with up to 30 inches of rain in some places a little over two weeks ago from Hurricane Florence.

As of Tuesday afternoon, school districts in Southeast Alabama, including Barbour, Coffee, Henry, and Covington counties as well as schools in Eufaula City were expected to shuttered their doors on Wednesday in anticipation of the storm.

Hurricane Michael is expected to be the second major storm in a month to disrupt mainland schools. Last school year, three major storms—Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria—significantly impacted school systems in Puerto Rico, Florida, and Texas. Some of those school systems, most notably Puerto Rico's, are still trying to recover.

And a little over two weeks ago, school districts in the Carolinas were forced to close as Hurricane Florence pummelled the states.

Districts in the areas where Hurricane Florence caused severe flooding and other storm damage are still not back to normal. Schools in Robeson County, where the Lumberton River flooded due to the heavy rains, were still closed on Tuesday. The district said that "environmental testing, remediation, abatement, repairs, general maintenance and cleaning," were delaying school reopening. A backlog in mold testing was also adding to the delay.

"The warm and wet conditions (high humidity) are fueling mold growth in vacant classrooms, schools, auditoriums and district facilities," according to the district's website. "While mold was caught and cleaned in some cases due to the swift action and proactive measures of maintenance employees and custodians, portions of some schools may still be uninhabitable as inspections and remediation efforts push forward."

Only some schools have reopened in Craven County, though the district hopes to reopen the other schools next week. And in New Hanover County schools, some students are sharing building space.

Photo caption: Volunteers install fabric storm panels at Pensacola Beach Elementary School on Oct. 9 in Pensacola, Fla., in advance of Hurricane Michael's expected landfall. --Tony Giberson/Pensacola Beach News Journal via AP)/Palm Beach Post via AP)


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