Published: Fri, October 12, 2018
Sci-tech | By April Francis

Hurricane Michael tears Florida towns apart, 6 dead

Hurricane Michael tears Florida towns apart, 6 dead

Some of the worst damage was in Mexico Beach, where the hurricane crashed ashore Wednesday as a Category 4 monster with 155 miles per hour (250 kph) winds and a storm surge of 9 feet (2.7 meters).

Recovery is just barely beginning from the catastrophic destruction even as a downgraded Michael spreads high winds, rains and flash flooding misery as far away as Virginia.

Michael, the third most powerful hurricane ever to hit the US mainland, weakened overnight to a tropical storm and pushed northeast on Thursday, bringing drenching rains to Georgia and the Carolinas, which are still recovering from Hurricane Florence last month.

While forecasters said Michael was gradually losing its tropical traits, a new chapter would begin as an extra-tropical storm, predicted to intensify with gale force winds once it starts cross out into the Atlantic. "It was so scary you'd poo yourself", said retiree Tom Garcia, 60, who was trapped inside his Mexico Beach home as water poured in to waist height.

When their house filled with surging ocean water, they fled upstairs. Debris is strewn across miles of Florida's coastline: Roofs and awnings peeled back from buildings, pieces of homes scattered amid snapped trees and downed power lines, chunks of beaches washed away.

"All of my furniture was floating", said Ms Marquardt, 67. "It was terrible, and now there's just nothing left".

Emergency services carried out dozens of rescues of people caught in swiftly moving floodwaters in North Carolina.

Communications outages and roads blocked by downed trees, strewn power lines and debris made it hard to get an overall assessment on Thursday of the damage wrought by Michael, but the initial picture was grim.

Over 900,000 homes and businesses in Florida, Alabama, Georgia and the Carolinas were without power.

- Powerful pressure: 919 millibars minimum pressure in the eye, the third most intense hurricane landfall in the U.S.in recorded history.

Florida families are starting to emerge tentatively from darkened shelters and hotels to an unfamiliar and perilous landscape of shattered homes and shopping centers, beeping security alarms, wailing sirens and hovering helicopters, the Associated Press reported midday Thursday.

In one community, Panama City, most homes were still standing, but no property was left undamaged.

"There are so many downed power lines and trees that it's nearly impossible to get through the city", Apalachicola Mayor Van Johnson said.

Hundreds of cars had broken windows.

"So many lives have been changed forever".

"This is a very dense part of the state, so it's going to be a lot of work to get to everybody", Gov. Rick Scott of Florida said.

Michael smashed into Florida's northwest coast near the small town of Mexico Beach on Wednesday with screeching 155 mile per hour (250 kilometers per hour) winds, pushing a wall of seawater inland.

A man outside Tallahassee, Florida, was killed by a falling tree, and an 11-year-old girl in Georgia died when the winds picked up a carport and dropped it on her home. A driver in North Carolina was killed when a tree fell on his vehicle.

In Apalachicola, about 30 miles (48 km) east of where the storm made landfall, a little less than half of the 2,200 people stayed and rode out the storm, residents said. Mandatory evacuations were issued as beach dwellers rushed to board up homes just ahead of what could be a devastating hit.

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