Hurricane Michael Decimates Florida Panhandle, Kills at Least One

Jo Lloyd
October 13, 2018

Michael severely damaged cotton, timber, pecan and peanut crops, causing estimated liabilities as high as $1.9 billion and affecting up to 3.7 million crop acres (1.5 million hectares), said Brad Rippey, a meteorologist for the U.S. Agriculture Department.

At least two deaths were blamed on Michael, the most powerful hurricane to hit the continental United States in over 50 years, and it wasn't done yet: Though weakened into a tropical storm, it continued to bring heavy rain and blustery winds to the Southeast as it pushed inland, soaking areas still recovering from Hurricane Florence.

Under a clear blue sky, families living along the Florida Panhandle emerged from shelters and hotels to a perilous landscape of shattered homes and shopping centers, wailing sirens and hovering helicopters.

Florida governor Rick Scott said: "This morning, Florida's Gulf Coast and Panhandle and the Big Bend are waking up to unimaginable destruction".

"I've worked most of my adult life out of town..." They said it could take weeks before it's safe for personnel and their families to return.

Michael roared ashore near Mexico Beach about 1 p.m. central time Wednesday, becoming the most powerful storm to ever strike the Panhandle and the fourth strongest to make landfall in the U.S.

Rows and rows of other homes were smashed to pieces or crunched to the ground.

In Wakulla County, the sheriff's office made a list of people who chose to ride out the storm and will check on them Thursday, sheriff's captain Chris Savary said.

"There were mandatory evacuation orders, but only idiots like us stuck around", said Jordon Tood, 31, a charter boat captain in Port St. Joe.

A National Guard team responded to Mexico Beach and found 20 survivors overnight, and more crews were pushing into the area in the morning. "You know, that's hard", she said, choking back tears. "My mother who passed two years ago, she put a lot of money in this house I asked her to keep her hands on it today and she did". Officials at the Tyndall Air Force Base in Panama City said dozens of trees and power lines went down, and several buildings lost their roofs across the military base.

"I can not disappoint the thousands of people that are there - and the thousands that are going", he tweeted.

"It's OK if you want to live on the coast or on top of a mountain that sees wildfires or whatever but you have to build to a higher standard", he said. It set off transformer explosions and knocked out power to more than 388,000 homes and businesses.

Michael is now dropping rain along the Mid-Atlantic and New England coasts as it moves eastward over the ocean, with sustained winds that have strengthened to 65 miles per hour.

Michael is expected to produce total rain accumulations of 4 to 7 inches from northern SC, west-central to northwestern North Carolina, and into south-central to southeast Virginia, including the southern Delmarva Peninsula. Roofs were peeled off and homes split open by fallen trees.

Authorities said falling trees killed a man outside Tallahassee, Florida, and an 11-year-old girl in southwest Georgia.

Hundreds of cars had broken windows.

A Florida hurricane expert said the footage of buildings in Mexico Beach stripped to their concrete foundations was no surprise. Sweet died after a tree fell on a home near Greensboro.

Damage in Panama City, just west of where Michael came ashore Wednesday afternoon, was so extensive that broken and uprooted trees and downed power lines lay almost everywhere.

The National Hurricane Center says the core of Michael will move across central and eastern Georgia Thursday morning, and then over southern and central SC later in the day.

As predicted, the storm's intensity diminished steadily as it pushed inland and curled northeasterly into Georgia after dark.

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