Published: Sat, October 13, 2018
Science | By Cecil Little

Death toll rises to six in wake of Hurricane Michael

Death toll rises to six in wake of Hurricane Michael

Several Florida Panhandle communities were completely destroyed as a result of Hurricane Michael's wrath, which claimed the lives of at least 11 people.

Under a perfectly clear blue sky, families living along the Florida Panhandle emerged tentatively from darkened shelters and hotels to a perilous landscape of shattered homes and shopping centers, beeping security alarms, wailing sirens and hovering helicopters.

The imagery shows the near total destruction of Mexico Beach and heavy damage to nearby Tyndall Air Force Base.

NOAA says the website will be updated as more flights take place.

Three deaths were reported in Marianna, in Jackson County, Florida, Sheriff Lou Roberts told a news conference on Friday afternoon.

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.

"This is a war zone", one Mexico Beach resident said of the damage left in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael.

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She said the west coast was "not out of the woods" in terms of strong winds and there was still a danger to people on the roads. Forecasters warned of heavy rain - up to four inches - and potential flooding in the wake of the storm.

TV station WLOS reported more than 40 roads had to be closed in the county due to flooding and 18 people had to be rescued, including one involving an SUV whose driver "found her vehicle floating" when she tried driving through flood waters. Cory Patirlo, who lives near the river, said the impact of Michael was unexpected.

Rescuers from FEMA used dogs, drones and Global Positioning System in the search for survivors.

More than 1,700 search and rescue workers have been deployed, Governor Rick Scott's office said in a statement, including seven swift-water rescue teams and almost 300 ambulances.

Some of the worst damage was in Mexico Beach, where the hurricane crashed ashore on Wednesday as a category four monster with 250-kilometres-per-hour winds and a storm surge of 2.7 metres.

President Trump described the hurricane as "unbelievably destructive and powerful", contrasting it with last year's Hurricane Harvey, which caused in 106 US deaths and massive flooding as it drifted for a week between Texas and Louisiana.

Much of downtown Port St Joe, 12 miles (19km) east of Mexico Beach, was flooded after Michael snapped boats in two and hurled a large ship onto the shore, residents said.

Mark Bowen, chief of emergency services in Bay County, told "Good Morning America" on Friday that "a tremendous number of people" are "unaccounted for".

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"Once that sheer weakened, the rest of the conditions were already present", said Corene J. Matyas, a hurricane expert and associate professor in the Department of Geography at the University of Florida. "We're doing what we can with the minimal media that we have".

WJHG news crews got a first look at the damage Hurricane Michael left behind in Panama City; the city they love and call home.

About 1,000 students attend the Panama City campus. "It's washed away", she said. Search teams were going door-to-door looking for victims.

First responders and residents walk along a main street following Hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach, Fla., on October 11, 2018.

"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".

Early Friday morning, Michael was dropping rain along the Mid-Atlantic and New England coasts as it moves eastward over the ocean, with sustained winds that have strengthened to 65 miles per hour.

As of Friday morning, more than 900,000 homes and businesses in Florida, Alabama, Georgia and the Carolinas were without power, FEMA officials said. The U.S. Coast Guard ran 10 rescue missions into the region Wednesday night.

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State officials said 285 people in Mexico Beach had refused to leave ahead of the hurricane despite a mandatory evacuation order. Emergency services carried out dozens of rescues of people caught in swiftly moving floodwaters in North Carolina on Thursday.

Florida Senator Bill Nelson went to Panama City, up the coast from Mexico Beach, and was stunned by what he saw. "Not all of that commercialism", said Dottie Sinclair, 57, a nurse, adding a Subway fast-food restaurant was the only commercial chain. "I was picking three bale cotton (this week); today it is gone", cotton farmer and state Rep. Clay Pirkle said.

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