Published: Fri, October 12, 2018
Science | By Cecil Little

Tues. 5:25 pm: Fast-moving Hurricane Michael menaces Florida Panhandle

Tues. 5:25 pm: Fast-moving Hurricane Michael menaces Florida Panhandle

Michael slammed North Florida with 155 miles per hour winds — just shy of Category 5 strength — sent up to 10 feet of storm surge into coastal areas and damaged and demolished homes and businesses across the Panhandle. Saturated grounds from Florence could also lead to more flash flooding.

At least three deaths were blamed on Michael, the most powerful hurricane to hit the continental USA in over 50 years, and by early Friday it was not over yet: a tropical storm long after Wednesday's landfall, Michael stubbornly kept up its punch while barrelling up the south-east. Forecasters say the storm has already begun shedding its tropical characteristics but will take on a new chapter as a powerful extratropical storm with gale force winds on its trek out to sea.

A Mexico Beach resident who rode out the hurricane described the impact of the storm surge to CNN.

Forecasters warned of coastal flooding with storm surge and tides projected to raise water levels by as much as eight to 12 feet in some areas. 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 155 miles per hour winds. "All of my furniture was floating", she said.

The storm, which came ashore as a Category 4 on the five-step Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale, tore entire neighborhoods apart, reducing homes and businesses to piles of wood and siding, damaging roads and leaving scenes of devastation that resembled the aftermath of a carpet-bombing operation.

Mr Scott is also keen to avoid problems caused by Hurricane Irma just over a year ago when a lack of workers left many local shelters under-staffed.

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

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A day later, the beach town remained hard to reach by land, with roads covered by fallen trees, power lines and other debris.

Five deaths were reported in Virginia, in addition to four in Florida, one in Georgia and one in North Carolina.

- The human cost: Falling trees have killed a man in Gadsden County, Florida; a man in Iredell County, North Carolina; and an 11-year-old girl in Seminole County, Georgia, was killed when a carport blew through the roof of her home.

In Panama City, home to about 38,000 people, Michael's fury was evident, with trees snapped in half and roofs ripped off buildings. Twisted street signs lay on the ground.

Hundreds of cars had broken windows.

State officials said 285 people in Mexico Beach had refused to leave ahead of the hurricane despite a mandatory evacuation order.

And unless we change the rate of greenhouse gas emissions, we should expect hurricanes to intensify more rapidly in the coming decades, the scientific research group Climate Central said.

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"So many families have lost everything", said Florida Gov. Rick Scott, calling it "unimaginable destruction".

Michael also was deadly, both in Florida and beyond.

She said authorities got a call Wednesday evening that the man was trapped but rescue crews were hampered by downed trees and debris blocking roadways.

More than 375,000 people up and down the Gulf Coast were ordered or urged to clear out as Michael closed in.

"Meanwhile, the Coast Guard said it rescued at least 27 people, mostly from homes damaged along the Florida coastline, and searched for more victims".

Among those brought to safety were nine people rescued by helicopter from a bathroom of their home in hard-hit Panama City after their roof collapsed, Petty Officer 3rd Class Ronald Hodges said.

"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. "Do you think it would have floated away?"

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