A resourceful Florida couple, trapped in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael, were saved after creating a clever satellite SOS, spelling out the word HELP with logs.
The residents’ message was spotted by chance when a relative who had already safely evacuated searched for the family’s property via satellite images on a scientific mapping website.
April Hand spent Saturday checking on property damage to the home of her fiance’s aunt and uncle outside Panama City, on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration website, when she noticed the SOS.
The trapped couple, Ernie and Susan Gee, had became uncontactable, so they used logs to spell out the word HELP to send out a rescue alert.
“I was worried,” Ms Hand told CNN, explaining they didn’t know if the pair and an elderly neighbour were able to be evacuated.
She immediately raised the alarm with the Bay County Department of Emergency Services, which sent rescue crews to save them.
The road leading to the house was blocked by fallen trees, but officers were able to clear a path and eventually reach the couple and their elderly neighbour early Sunday morning.
Bay County called it another example of how people in the area were pulling together after such a devastating storm.
“This is an incredible story of how people are working together in this situation,” Bay County Emergency Services wrote on its Facebook page, sharing the satellite picture.
“Someone from another county was using the mapping app to check property in rural Bay County and noticed the word ‘help’ spelled out in the grass in logs. That person immediately contacted us and sent the picture and we dispatched needed assistance,” the department wrote.
Determining Hurricane Michael death toll proves elusive
The storm that ravaged Florida’s Panhandle left incredible destruction stretching from the Gulf of Mexico to the state border, but so far getting a firm grasp on how many died is proving somewhat elusive.
The state has officially acknowledged just two deaths so far — and one death was in northeast Florida, far from the ground-zero fury of the Category 4 storm.
Meanwhile, search and rescue teams have crawled and walked through thousands of buildings and ruins for days in places like Mexico Beach, which was virtually wiped out when Michael roared ashore last week.
The Associated Press has put the overall death toll at 17 so far, including one death in Mexico Beach confirmed by a search and rescue team and six others confirmed by local officials in Florida. In other states, there are 10 confirmed deaths.