Hurricane Michael proves deadly in at least 4 states as Florida searches underway

Hurricane Michael proves deadly in at least 4 states as Florida searches underway
Hurricane Michael death toll rises to at least six as storm barrels through southeast U.S.
Using heavy equipment to push aside debris and with helicopters circling overhead, rescuers in the Florida Panhandle searched for trapped residents as officials warned on Friday the death toll from Hurricane Michael was expected to rise.

At least 11 deaths in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia were attributed to one of the most powerful hurricanes in U.S. history slamming into Florida's northwest coast.

Row after row of beachfront homes were so obliterated by Michael’s surging seas and howling winds that only slabs of concrete in the sand remain, a testament that this was ground zero when the epic Category 4 hurricane slammed ashore at midweek. The destruction in this and other communities dotting the white-sand beaches is being called catastrophic — and it will need billions of dollars to rebuild.

"I expect the fatality count to climb today and tomorrow," Brock Long, head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), told CNN. "Hopefully it doesn't rise dramatically but it does remain a possibility."

High winds, downed trees, streets inundated by rising waters and multiple rescues of motorists from waterlogged cars played out in spots around Virginia and neighbouring North Carolina. And while forecasters said Michael was gradually losing its tropical traits, it was a new chapter would begin as an extratropical storm predicted to intensify with gale force winds once it starts cross out into the Atlantic.

Virginia officials indicated early Friday that five people had died in the state. Jeff Caldwell, a spokesperson with the state's emergency management department, said four people drowned. A firefighter also was killed when a tractor-trailer slammed into his fire truck while he was responding to a two-car crash in heavy storm conditions.

A man outside Tallahassee, Florida, was killed by a falling tree was the first of “4 storm-related fatalities” announced by the Gadsden County Sheriff’s office. An 11-year-old girl in Georgia died when Michael’s winds picked up a carport and dropped it through the roof of her grandparents’ home. A driver in North Carolina was killed when a tree fell on his car.

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Virginia storm updates as of 7 a.m today. 5 confirmed Michael-related fatalities. 520,000 without power. 1,200 closed roads. 5 suspected tornadoes.

An insurance company that produces models for catastrophes estimated Michael caused about $8 billion in damage. Boston-based Karen Clark & Company released that estimate Thursday, which includes privately insured wind and storm surge damage to residential, commercial and industrial properties and vehicles. It doesn’t include losses covered by the National Flood Insurance Program.

The sheriff's office in Gadsden County near Tallahassee, Fla., said it "can now confirm four storm-related fatalities following Hurricane Michael," all of which happened "in relation to or occurred during the storm." County officials say they're not releasing names or other details yet while families are notified.

In pictures: Hurricane Michael leaves destruction in its wake

An 11-year-old girl in Georgia also died when Michael's winds picked up a carport and dropped it through the roof of her grandparents' home, and a driver in North Carolina was killed when a tree fell on his car.

Michael struck Florida's northwest coast with particular force, with top sustained winds of 250 km/h, pushing a wall of seawater inland and causing widespread flooding.

Michael dropped from a Category 4 hurricane to a Category 1 as it arrived in Georgia, and later weakened to a tropical storm. Still, it caused havoc in parts of the state, spinning off tornadoes and leaving downed trees, damaged buildings and power outages behind as it marched toward the Carolinas.

Michael charges into Southeast after slamming north Florida

The storm tore entire neighbourhoods apart in Mexico Beach, Fla., reducing homes and businesses to piles of wood and siding. Rescuers and residents were struggling to get into the town to assess the damage and search for the hundreds of people believed to have stayed behind.

In what could only be described as a freak accident, authorities say Michael’s powerful winds lifted the portable structure high into the air and slammed it back down on the house. When it landed, one of the legs tore through the roof, fatally striking the 11-year-old girl in the head.

Linda Marquardt rode out Hurricane Michael with her husband at their home in Mexico Beach. When their house filled with surging ocean water, they fled upstairs. Now their home is full of mud and everywhere they look there's utter devastation in their Florida Panhandle community: fishing boats tossed like toys, roofs lifted off of buildings and pine trees snapped like matchsticks in the roaring winds.

Other parts of Georgia also were hit hard by the storm. 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.

Hurricane Michael leaves unimaginable destruction

"All of my furniture was floating," said Marquardt, 67. "'A river just started coming down the road. It was awful, and now there's just nothing left."

Sarah had the week off from school for fall break and she and her 12-year-old brother had been staying at their grandparents’ house near a lake in Seminole County since Monday. They were supposed to return home Thursday morning.

Survivors share terrifying tales and videos of the hours they spent riding out Hurricane Michael

U.S. army personnel used heavy equipment to push a path through debris in Mexico Beach to allow rescuers through to search for trapped residents, survivors or casualties, as Blackhawk helicopters circled overhead. Rescuers from FEMA used dogs, drones and GPS in the search.

A man outside Tallahassee, Florida, was killed by a falling tree was the first of "4 storm-related fatalities" announced by the Gadsden County Sheriffs office. An 11-year-old girl in Georgia died when Michaels winds picked up a carport and dropped it through the roof of her grandparents home. A driver in North Carolina was killed when a tree fell on his car. Then, as Michael blew through Virginia as a tropical storm, authorities said five people there were killed, including four who drowned and a firefighter whose truck was struck by a tractor-trailer as he responded to an accident in heavy storm conditions.

Florida Hurricane Michael: First picture of Sarah Radney, 11, among at least seven dead after powerful storm hit the US

"We prepare for the worst and hope for the best. This is obviously the worst," said Stephanie Palmer, a FEMA firefighter and rescuer from Coral Springs, Fla.

PANAMA CITY, Fla. — Linda Marquardt rode out Hurricane Michael with her husband at their home in Mexico Beach. When their house filled with surging ocean water, they fled upstairs. Now their home is full of mud and everywhere they look theres utter devastation in their Florida Panhandle community: fishing boats tossed like toys, roofs lifted off of buildings and pine trees snapped like matchsticks in 155 mph winds.

Much of downtown Port St. Joe, 19 kilometres east of Mexico Beach, was flooded after Michael snapped boats in two and hurled a large ship onto the shore, residents said.

High winds, downed trees, streets inundated by rising waters and multiple rescues of motorists from waterlogged cars played out in spots around Virginia and neighbouring North Carolina. And while forecasters said Michael was gradually losing its tropical traits, it was a new chapter would begin as an extratropical storm predicted to intensify with gale force winds once it starts cross out into the Atlantic.

"We had houses that were on one side of the street and now they're on the other," said Mayor Bo Patterson, who watched trees fly by his window as he rode out the storm in his home seven blocks from the beach.

Row after row of beachfront homes were so obliterated by Michaels surging seas and howling winds that only slabs of concrete in the sand remain, a testament that this was ground zero when the epic Category 4 hurricane slammed ashore at midweek. The destruction in this and other communities dotting the white-sand beaches is being called catastrophic — and it will need billions of dollars to rebuild.

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

An insurance company that produces models for catastrophes estimated Michael caused about $8 billion in damage. Boston-based Karen Clark & Company released that estimate Thursday, which includes privately insured wind and storm surge damage to residential, commercial and industrial properties and vehicles. It doesnt include losses covered by the National Flood Insurance Program.

The commander of Tyndall Air Force Base said the "base took a beating" and will require "extensive cleanup and repairs." Videos of the damaged base show roofs ripped off hangars and a fighter jet on display toppled onto the ground.

Mexico Beach, Fla., as seen from a helicopter chartered by CNN on Thursday morning. (Screengrab: CNN)MoreThe small beachfront community, located about 40 miles south of Panama City, Fla., was where the Category 4 storm made landfall on Wednesday afternoon with maximum sustained winds of 155 mph, just 2 mph below the threshold of Category 5. It was the strongest hurricane ever to hit the Florida Panhandle, and the third strongest ever to strike the U.S. mainland.

Col. Brian Laidlaw told the 3,600 airmen stationed at the base just east of Panama City that he won't ask them or their families to return until their safety is guaranteed.

Homes completely destroyed. Refrigerators and toilets where the storm left them. Thousands of two-by-fours, chewed up and indecipherable. Refrigerators, toilets, staircases to nowhere and front doors 10 feet up with no way down. The neighborhoods along U.S. 98 looked like a childs playroom after a massive tantrum.

With a low barometric pressure recorded at 919 millibars, a measure of a hurricane's force, Michael was 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 Labour Day hurricane of 1935 in the Florida Keys.

In this image made from video and provided by SevereStudios.com, damage from Hurricane Michael is seen in Mexico Beach, Fla. on Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018. (SevereStudios.com via AP)MoreSlideshow: Aerial photos show the devastation left in the path of Hurricane Michael >>>

The National Hurricane Center issued its final advisory on Michael on Friday at 5 a.m. ET, when it was 300 to 400 kilometres east-northeast of Norfolk, Va., and southwest of Nantucket, Mass. Michael's top sustained winds were growing again in the warm water, to nearly 100 km/h.

Roads to Mexico Beach were virtually impassable, so Baldwin, who spent the night in nearby Destin, Fla., chartered a chopper to get the view from above. Fires could be seen burning in the distance, homes shredded and boats strewn across the town of about 1,100 people.

It was toppling trees and bringing life-threatening flash flooding to areas of Georgia and Virginia, which are still recovering from Hurricane Florence, as it marched northeast.

More than 1.5 million homes and businesses on the U.S. East Coast were still without power on Friday as a result of the storm. Southern Co's Gulf Power unit said it could take weeks to restore power in the hardest hit parts of Florida like the Panama City area.

All told, Michael caused around 2.5 million outages since making landfall. In Georgia, Southern's Georgia Power unit said it expects to restore service to most customers over the next couple of days, with those in the hardest hit areas by Oct. 16.

Satellite images provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) show a path of destruction right through Mexico Beach, with buildings levelled and debris strewn far and wide.

Duke Energy Corp said it had around 6,000 workers restoring service in the Carolinas where an estimated 670,000 customers lost power at some point. Duke currently has about 434,000 customers without power. The company said some outages could take several days to repair.

Those images form a marked contrast with what Mexico Beach looked like before the storm hit: an idyllic seaside town with sand, palm trees and homes looking out to the Gulf of Mexico.

The number of people in emergency shelters was expected to swell to 20,000 across five states by Friday, said Brad Kieserman of the American Red Cross.

Hurricane Michael carved a path of destruction across Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas. Jackson Proskow looks at the damage left behind

Video: It was terrifying: Florida residents describe impact of Hurricane Michael

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Long said in the long run, people will need to think about the strength of storms if they want to remain in susceptible areas.

Some of the worst damage is plenty evident at Mexico Beach, a community located along the Florida Panhandle, where the storm first hit.

"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. "If we're going to rebuild, do it right."

In Florida beach hamlet, not much left after Hurricane Michael

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

The National Hurricane Center in Miami said early Thursday that the eye of Michael was about 90 miles (144 kilometres) northeast of Macon, Georgia and about 45 miles (72 kilometres) west of Augusta. The storm’s maximum sustained winds have decreased to 50 mph (80 kph) and it was moving to the northeast at 21 mph (33 kph). The core of Michael will move across eastern Georgia into Central South Carolina on Thursday morning.

Video: Aftermath of Hurricane Michael leaves Panama City residents stunned

Michael also disrupted energy operations in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico as it approached land, cutting crude oil production by more than 40 per cent and natural gas output by nearly a third as offshore platforms were evacuated.

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A Panhandle man was killed by a tree that toppled on a home, Gadsden County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Anglie Hightower said. But she added emergency crews trying to reach the home were hampered by downed trees and debris blocking roadways. The debris was a problem in many coastal communities and still hundreds of thousands of people were also left without power.

Hurricane Michael: Insured Losses Estimated at $8 Billion

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