Published: Sat, October 13, 2018
Sci-tech | By Spencer Schmidt

Deadly Hurricane Michael devastates Florida Panhandle before moving inland

Deadly Hurricane Michael devastates Florida Panhandle before moving inland

Catastrophic scenes have emerged across the Florida Panhandle, where Michael left more than 350,000 without power and entire neighborhoods in ruins.

The full extent of the damage was only slowly becoming clear, with some of the hardest-hit areas difficult to reach because of roads blocked by debris or water.

Hurricane Michael, the fiercest storm to hit Florida in more than 80 years and the third-most powerful ever to strike the USA mainland, battered the state's Gulf coast on Wednesday with roof-shredding winds, towering surf and torrential rains.

Hurricane Michael's battering waves swamped streets and docks and shrieking winds splintered trees and rooftops. The National Hurricane Centre warned of possible spinoff tornadoes and heavy rains in Alabama and Georgia, before the storm heads for SC, already soaked by Hurricane Florence in September.

At 03:00 GMT on Thursday, maximum sustained winds decreased to 75mph, the NHC said in a bulletin.

With a low barometric pressure recorded at 919 millibars, the measure of a hurricane's force, Michael ranked as the third strongest storm on record to hit the continental United States, behind only Hurricane Camille on the Mississippi Gulf Coast in 1969 and the Labor Day hurricane of 1935 in the Florida Keys.

The 11-year-old girl and at least five others have been killed since Michael made landfall in the Florida Panhandle Wednesday and slammed Georgia and the Carolinas through Thursday, officials said.

Video shot by CNN from a helicopter showed homes closest to the water in Mexico Beach had lost all but their foundations.

By early Friday it wasn't almost over yet: a tropical storm long after Wednesday's landfall, Michael stubbornly kept up its punch while barreling over land toward an expected exit across the open Atlantic.

"We've been very cautious with sending our first responders out right now", she said, after Michael made landfall as a raging Category 4 hurricane that toppled trees and power lines.

Hurricane Michael's deadly trail of devastation now stretches from the Florida Panhandle, where it wiped away a coastal city, to the Carolinas, where it triggered flash floods that turned roads into rivers.

An estimated 6,000 evacuees took cover in emergency shelters, a lot of them in Florida, and that number was expected to swell to 20,000 across five states by week's end, Kieserman said. Police officers spent the night patrolling the area to prevent looting and responding to calls for assistance, making do with damaged patrol cars eased across downed power lines and even small buildings flipped into the middle of streets.

A woman and her children stand near a destroyed gas station in Panama City.

In Mexico Beach, population 1,000, the storm shattered homes, leaving floating piles of lumber. National Weather Service meteorologist Ryan Willis said there were two confirmed tornado touchdowns in the state: one in southwest Atlanta and another in Crawford County in central Georgia.

At least one person was killed when a tree crashed into his Greensboro, Florida home. Aluminum siding was shredded and homes were split by fallen trees. Pine trees were stripped and snapped off about 6m high. Long urged residents in the Carolinas to heed warnings and take the tropical storm seriously. Though most homes were still standing, no property was left undamaged. "She was 11 years old, but she liked to have fun like a 5-year-old".

"She was so lovely and she smiled so much that day", Amber Radney said.

Storm surge warnings were in place along the Florida and Alabama coasts.

And, impressively, Michael's top sustained winds are growing again, to near 65 miles per hour (100 kph) at 5 a.m., with forecasters saying it will grow stronger still.

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