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Dorian triggers flooding in Bahamas; 5 dead
Coastal US watches, waits for storm to make landfall

NASSAU, Bahamas — Hurricane Dorian unleashed massive flooding across the Bahamas on Monday, pummeling the islands with so much wind and water that authorities urged people to find floatation devices and grab hammers to break out of their attics if necessary. At least five deaths were blamed on the storm.

"We are in the midst of a historic tragedy," Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said in announcing the fatalities. He called the devastation "unprecedented and extensive."

The fearsome Category 4 storm slowed almost to a standstill as it shredded roofs, hurled cars and forced even rescue crews to take shelter until the onslaught passed.

Officials said they received a "tremendous" number of calls from people in flooded homes. A radio station received more than 2,000 distress messages, including reports of a 5-monthold baby stranded on a roof and a grandmother with six grandchildren who cut a hole in a roof to escape rising floodwaters. Other reports involved a group of eight children and five adults stranded on a highway and two storm shelters that flooded.

The deaths in the Bahamas came after a previous storm-related fatality in Puerto Rico. At least 21 people were hurt in the Bahamas and evacuated by helicopters, the prime minster said. Police Chief Samuel Butler urged people to remain calm and share their GPS coordinates, but he said rescue crews had to wait until weather conditions improved.

"We simply cannot get to you," he told Bahamas radio station ZNS.

Forecasters warned that Dorian could generate a storm surge as high as 23 feet.

Meanwhile in the United States, the National Hurricane Center extended watches and warnings across the Florida and Georgia coasts. Forecasters expected Dorian to stay off shore, but meteorologist Daniel Brown cautioned that "only a small deviation" could draw the storm's dangerous core toward land.

By 7 p.m. EDT Monday, the storm's top sustained winds had fallen to 145 mph. It was virtually stationary — actually slipping a bit eastward, according to the Hurricane Center.

The water reached roofs and the tops of palm trees. One woman filmed water lapping at the stairs of her home's second floor.

In Freeport, Dave Mackey recorded video showing water and floating debris surging around his house as the wind shrieked outside.

"Our house is 15 feet up, and right now where that water is is about 8 feet. So we're pretty concerned right now because we're not at high tide," said Mackey, who shared the video with The Associated Press. "Our garage door has already come off. ... Once we come out of it with our lives, we're happy."

On Sunday, Dorian churned over Abaco Island with battering winds and surf and heavy flooding.

Parliament member Darren Henfield described the damage as "catastrophic" and said officials did not have information on what happened on nearby cays. "We are in search-and-recovery mode. ... Continue to pray for us."

A spokesman for Bahamas Power and Light told ZNS that there was a blackout in New Providence, the archipelago's most populous island. He said the company's office in Abaco island was flattened.

"The reports out of Abaco as everyone knows," spokesman Quincy Parker said, pausing for a deep sigh, "were not good."

Most people went to shelters as the storm neared. Tourist hotels shut down, and residents boarded up their homes. Many people were expected to be left homeless.

On Sunday, Dorian's maximum sustained winds reached 185 mph, with gusts up to 220 mph, tying the record for the most powerful Atlantic hurricane ever to make landfall. That equaled the Labor Day hurricane of 1935, before storms were named. The only recorded storm that was more powerful was Hurricane Allen in 1980, with 190 mph winds, though it did not make landfall at that strength.

The Bahamas archipelago is no stranger to hurricanes. Homes are required to have metal reinforcements for roof beams to withstand winds into the upper limits of a Category 4 hurricane, and compliance is generally tight for those who can afford it. Risks are higher in poorer neighborhoods that have wooden homes in low-lying areas.

Dorian was likely to begin pulling away from the Bahamas early Tuesday and curving to the northeast parallel to the southeastern coast of the U.S. The system is expected to spin 40 to 50 miles off Florida, with hurricane-force wind speeds extending about 35 miles to the west.

An advisory from the hurricane center warned that Florida's east-central coast could see a brief tornado sometime Monday afternoon or evening.

A mandatory evacuation of entire South Carolina coast took effect Monday covering about 830,000 people.

Transportation officials reversed all lanes of Interstate 26 from Charleston to head inland earlier than planned after noticing traffic jams from evacuees and vacationers heading home on Labor Day, Gov. Henry McMaster said.

"We can't make everybody happy, but we believe we can keep everyone alive," the governor said.

A few hours later, Georgia's governor, Brian Kemp, ordered mandatory evacuations for that state's Atlantic coast, also starting at midday Monday.

Authorities in Florida ordered mandatory evacuations in some vulnerable coastal areas. North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper warned his state that it could see heavy rain, winds and floods later in the week.

A hurricane watch was in effect for Florida's East Coast from Deerfield Beach north to South Santee River in South Carolina. A storm surge watch was extended northward to South Santee River in South Carolina. Lake Okeechobee was under a tropical storm watch.


Catlettsburg festival celebrates community, deep labor roots

CATLETTSBURG, Ky. — No town in the Tri-State does Labor Day like Catlettsburg, Kentucky, and it's been that way for years.

Its 52nd annual Labor Day celebration Monday was as grand as any year prior, kicked off by its beloved parade, followed by a daylong street fair and capped by a night of live music headlined by country legends The Oak Ridge Boys.

It's developed much since those first humble days of bike races and greased-pig chases when it began in 1967.

The festival has grown dramatically over the years and has become a cultural touchstone and a homecoming moment for Catlettsburg natives, many returning to town for a weekend they've held dear wherever life has taken them.

At its core, it's simply a time for the community to enjoy themselves and a long weekend together, said Gail Sammons of the Catlettsburg Community Development Council.

But what's made Catlettsburg's Labor Day celebration a success — particularly when many municipalities do nothing for the holiday — is the town's long and deeply rooted history with organized labor.

As with most of Boyd County, Catlettsburg is where many union men and women lay their heads at night (or during the day) after a long day (or night) at one of the area's industrial hubs.

"A lot of people from this town were in the labor trades and good union people, so this still honors them," Sammons said. "People forget that if we don't have plumbers, electricians or carpenters, what would we do? Everybody can't be a professor."

That connection between the community and the labor trades is as vital as it is inseparable, added Thomas Tussey, a longtime leader in United Steelworkers Local 7047 in Ashland.

The parade itself featured the eight participating local trade unions. Boilermakers, electricians and millwrights marched alongside the schools, fire departments, sports teams and churches of the community as they do in the world at large.

"This is where you get your support — through your community," Tussey said. "So you've got to go out and meet with people. Their leaders are at our union meetings and our leaders go to their meetings — that's how tight-knit we are."

The event was co-organized by the Catlettsburg Community Development Council, the city of Catlettsburg, Catlettsburg Fire Department and the Catlettsburg Police Department.

WEB EXTRA

For more photos from this event, go to www.herald-dispatch.com.


Groups help WV students in need of newer shoes

CHARLESTON — Kids show up to West Virginia schools in worn-out shoes with holes, the used soles separating from the shoes. There are kids who show up in a sibling's hand-me-down footwear, their smaller feet clunking around in the ill-fitting shoes.

It can be uncomfortable, impractical and embarrassing. Teachers, school counselors and bus drivers are often the first to look down and notice when a child is desperately in need of a new pair of shoes.

"Unfortunately, we get a lot of requests for shoes during school," Melissa Harper, who works with hundreds of homeless students in Kanawha County Public Schools, said.

"Shoes are not just a need for my homeless students, but for many students across Kanawha County," she added.

In Mingo County, homeless students liaison Drema Dempsey said the need for new shoes extends beyond the nearly 300 homeless students she oversees.

"It's countywide, not just the homeless students," Dempsey said.

She noted there is especially a need for larger men's sizes, as those tend to be pricier and left out of shoe donation collections.

And elementary school staff at Clay Elementary last year provided shoes for more than a fourth of its students in need of footwear.

'It may be the only new thing they receive'

Local groups and organizations in other states have stepped up to fill the need, hosting drives and events to gather new and gently used shoes.

Kerri Cooper, a community impact director with the United Way Central West Virginia, is acutely aware of the need for shoes in Boone, Clay, Kanawha, Logan and Putnam counties.

She signs her emails, "Kerri, The Shoe Fairy," and spends her days responding to texts and calls from school administrators and counselors about anonymous kids urgently in need of shoes.

Sometimes they're special requests, like a pair of shoes in a wide size that will accommodate a child with leg braces.

"The difference could be $10 for a pair of shoes or $10 to pay on the electricity bill or for food. Sometimes a kid needs a new pair of shoes, and sometimes it gets pushed to the back burner, and I wholeheartedly understand it," Cooper said.

Shoe requests come in more frequently at the start of the school year and when the weather changes, she said, explaining the requests increase after clothing vouchers have been redeemed.

Clothing vouchers, which 36% of West Virginia students used last year, allow qualifying low-income families to receive state money ahead of the school year to use for clothes and shoes.

The money — $200 per child — must be used by the end of October, meaning families on tight budgets can struggle to buy shoes when the weather changes or a pair gets worn out.

"I find that families who do get a clothing voucher shop in August for all the back-to-school basics, but during this time it's difficult to find warm jackets and boots," Harper explained.

Once Cooper is aware of the need for shoes, she purchases athletic shoes through the United Way chapter's Equal Footing Shoe Fund then delivers them within 24 hours to schools' front offices.

She likens herself to the tooth fairy. She never sees the kids, and they don't know who delivered their brand new pair of shoes.

"There hasn't been a day we haven't delivered shoes somewhere," she said. "It may be the only new thing they receive all year."

Young man launches local shoe nonprofit

Isaac Cosby was tutoring kids through Bridge Ministries, a nonprofit in South Charleston, when he looked down and saw kids and teens wearing wornout, tattered shoes.

"They were getting made fun of," Cosby said. "That shouldn't be going on in a place where people have extra."

A look into his own closet in 2016 — full of unused Nikes — sparked an idea.

Cosby, 26, launched Free Your Footwear the same year out of his mom's basement in South Charleston.

The small space, lit by strung Christmas lights, is filled with organized stacks of gently used and new tennis shoes donated by community members. West Virginia University, Marshall University and Hurricane Elementary students hosted drives to benefit the organization.

Cosby and a team of volunteers clean the donated shoes, put in new laces when necessary, and send them around the world and to local homeless shelters and kids in need. Last Christmas, Cosby was able to give new shoes to more than 20 kids staying at the YWCA Sojourner's Shelter for Homeless Women and Families in Charleston.

The organization has given away more than 1,000 pairs of shoes to kids and teens since it launched.

"You hand someone a gift that they don't think they'd ever really get," Cosby said. "We're called to help other people, and what better way to do that than to give them something they need."

How you can help

The United Way Central West Virginia has partnered with the Kanawha County Public Library to collect shoes for students in Boone, Clay, Kanawha, Logan and Putnam counties.

New shoes only may be donated in bins available at five KCPL branches: the main branch in downtown Charleston, Cross Lanes, Dunbar, Elk Valley (in Elkview) and Sissonville. The drive will run through the end of September. For more information, contact the United Way Central West Virginia.

To donate shoes to Free Your Footwear, host a donation drive or request shoes, contact the organization via Facebook.

Amelia Ferrell Knisely is a corps member with Report for America, an initiative of The GroundTruth Project. Reach her at amelia. ferrell@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-4886 or follow @ameliaknisely on Twitter.

"Shoes are not just a need for my homeless students, but for many students across Kanawha County."

Melissa Harper works with Kanawha County Public Schools