Friday, 19 October, 2018

'Apocalyptic:' One Florida town demolished by Michael

Gerald Herbert  APA woman checks on her vehicle as Hurricane Michael passes through in Panama City Beach Fla. Oct. 10 2018 Gerald Herbert APA woman checks on her vehicle as Hurricane Michael passes through in Panama City Beach Fla. Oct. 10 2018
Kristen Harrington | 12 October, 2018, 17:57

Search and rescue teams combed through shattered USA communities on Thursday looking for victims of Hurricane Michael, a Category 4 monster storm which carved out a swathe of destruction in the Florida Panhandle, killing at least six in three states.

In large areas of Mexico Beach, homes were obliterated or reduced to stacks of rubble, aerial video from CNN showed on Thursday.

Mexico Beach, located on Florida's northwestern coast, "took the brunt" of Hurricane Michael and is "probably ground zero", FEMA administrator Brock Long said Thursday. Pine trees were stripped and snapped off about 20 feet high.

Al Hancock, 45, who works on a tour boat, survived in Panama City with his wife and dog.

"I just need to know he's OK", McCall said.

State officials said 285 people in Mexico Beach had defied a mandatory evacuation order ahead of Michael.

The area is known for its small coastal towns and wildlife reserves.

The system, which has been blamed for at least seven deaths, hit the mainland as a Category 4 hurricane with winds reaching maximum speeds of 250 km/h and a storm surge reaching up to 2.7 metres high. It weakened steadily as it traveled inland over the Panhandle. Yet, parts of Virginia are still seeing unsafe wind gusts, the National Hurricane Center said.

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Further strong winds may bring down leaves and branches, increasing the likelihood of flooding due to blocked drains or culverts. NRW will issue flood alerts and warnings if rivers reach trigger levels, with teams monitoring river levels 24 hours a day.

Parts of North Carolina and Virginia could get as much as 9 inches (23 cm) of rain and life-threatening flash floods, the NHC said. Both states are still recovering from major flooding following Hurricane Florence less than a month ago.

The 11-year-old girl and at least five others have been killed since Michael made landfall Wednesday and made its way northeast leaving a path of destruction, officials said.

Mr Long said several hospitals in the Panhandle were hit by the hurricane and patients had to be evacuated.

"The second death was reported in Georgia's Seminole County early Thursday, apparently caused by debris crashing through a mobile home and killing a child inside", the Washington Post reported.

When the steep-walled eye of Hurricane Michael passed over Stefan Melendez Wednesday afternoon, he stepped into the temporarily tranquil Florida environment and saw blue skies above.

The storm mangled buildings, toppled trees and covered roads in water.

"The wind that came through here was surreal".

Ms Baldwin adds: "As we watch the deterioration along the coastline, it was bad in Panama City beach, but I've never seen anything like this".

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The storm caused almost 500,000 power outages in North Carolina, the state's Emergency Management Agency said on Friday morning.

About 32km south of Mexico Beach, floodwaters were more than 2.1 metres deep near Apalachicola, a town of about 2,300 residents, hurricane centre chief Ken Graham said. Wind damage was also evident.

A psychiatric hospital in Florida remains isolated after downed trees blocked roads around Chattahoochee, Florida, and a tree caused a water line to break. Now a tropical storm, Michael is headed to the Carolinas.

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 make landfall in the continental United States.

Ahead of Michael among USA hurricanes were the 1935 Labor Day hurricane, which left 485 dead; Hurricane Camille, which killed 259 people in 1969, and Hurricane Andrew in 1992, which resulted in 65 deaths, and.

Search and rescue crews were expected to escalate efforts to reach hardest-hit areas and check for anyone trapped or injured in the storm debris.

Phil Klotzbach, Colorado Springs University meteorologist, ranked Hurricane Michael unofficially as the fourth strongest in USA history and third-strongest to hit Florida, as well as the most powerful hurricane to crash the Florida panhandle.

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