Hurricane Michael: 17 dead, Coastal Florida cities damaged beyond recognition

Hannah Rogers
October 15, 2018

At the time, the then-tropical-storm wasn't expected to achieve its current Category 4 status, but now that it's here, it's time to batten down the hatches. Despite the downgrade, the storm was still pounding the Southeast with heavy rains, winds, and a threat of spinoff tornadoes.

Michael, the third most powerful hurricane ever to hit the U.S. mainland, weakened overnight to a tropical storm but marched northeast on Thursday, toppling trees and bringing "life threatening" flash flooding to Georgia and Virginia, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) reported.

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

Long says "Mexico Beach took the brunt, that's probably ground zero". Hundreds of thousands of people are without power in those states, where states of emergency have been ordered.

Scientists have long warned that global warming will make storms more destructive, and some say the evidence for this may already be visible.

Insurance analyst Fitch Ratings said the Florida companies can withstand storm like Michael that hit sparsely populated areas of the state, but would struggle is a major storm hit Miami or another big city.

Despite the widespread destruction, LaFountain said he believes most people will rebuild. By the time, he realized that was a bad assessment, the bridges were already closed.

Some other highways are still closed because of flooding and damage from Hurricane Florence last month.

Hurricane Michael's powerful winds ripped roofs from buildings - including a Panama City High school gym where some teachers and their families had taken shelter. On Thursday, oil producers were checking production platforms and beginning to return crews to more than 90 offshore facilities that had been evacuated.

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Emergency officials said they had done an initial "hasty search" of 80 percent of the stricken area, looking for the living or the dead. "But when you started to move east, the damage increased fast".

Authorities are correcting early reports about the death of an 11-year-old girl as Hurricane Michael blew over southwest Georgia. A driver in North Carolina was killed when a tree fell on his vehicle.

Along the 200-mile Panhandle, Michael washed away white-sand beaches, hammered military bases and destroyed coastal communities, stripping trees to stalks, shredding roofs, toppling trucks and pushing boats into buildings.

Allan was sitting in her recliner in her home Wednesday morning when a ceiling tile fell and hit her on the leg.

The town where the hurricane made landfall Wednesday remained very hard to reach by land a day later, with roads covered by fallen trees, power lines and other storm debris.

Michael is now centered over SC and is still a tropical storm after a long land journey over the southeastern United States.

The resort town of Mexico Beach, where the hurricane made landfall, suffered massive destruction from the 155 miles per hour (250 kph) winds. They say he died at the scene around 9 p.m. Thursday.

And at that point, forecasters expect Michael to strengthen again over open water.

Hurricane Michael reached Mexico Beach in Bay County on Wednesday afternoon as a Category 4 storm - the strongest hurricane to hit the Florida Panhandle on record and the fourth-most powerful storm to ever hit the United States. Michael's peak winds at landfall were just behind the three Category 5 storms that have made landfall since 1900 - Labor Day (1935), Camille (1969), and Andrew (1992).

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