Six dead in storm
HURRICANE MICHAEL WREAKS HAVOC IN FLORIDA’S COASTAL TOWNS
MEXICO BEACH: Hurricane Michael’s violence was visible in shattered Florida coastal towns, where rows of homes were ripped from foundations and roofs were peeled off schools by the near-record-force storm blamed for six deaths.
Michael smashed into Florida’s north-west coast near the small town of Mexico Beach on Wednesday (United States time) with screeching 250 km/h winds, pushing a wall of seawater inland.
Video shot by CNN from a helicopter showed homes closest to the water in Mexico Beach had lost all but their foundations. A few blocks inland, about half the homes were reduced to piles of wood and siding and those still standing had suffered heavy damage.
Michael, the third-most powerful hurricane ever to hit the US mainland, weakened overnight to a tropical storm and pushed northeast, bringing drenching rains to Georgia and the Carolinas, which are still recovering from Hurricane Florence last month.
Michael killed at least six people in Florida, Georgia and North Carolina, with the deaths due to falling trees and other hurricane-related incidents, officials and media said.
In Panama City, 32 km north-west of Mexico Beach, buildings were crushed and boats were scattered around. Michael left a trail of utility wires on roads, flattened tall pine trees and knocked a steeple from a church.
Nearly 950 000 homes and businesses were without power in Florida, Alabama, the Carolinas and Georgia on Thursday.
Florida Governor Rick Scott told the Weather Channel the damage from Panama City down to Mexico Beach was ‘‘way worse than anybody ever anticipated’’.
Michael, a Category 4 storm on the five-step Saffir-Simpson hurricane intensity scale when it came ashore, was causing flash flooding on Thursday in parts of North Carolina and Virginia, where some areas could get as much as 23 cm of rain, the National Hurricane Center said.
The number of people in emergency shelters is expected to swell to 20 000 across five states.
US Agriculture Department meteorologist Brad Rippey said Michael had severely damaged cotton, timber, pecan and peanuts, causing estimated liabilities as high as $US1.9 billion.
Devastation: Matthew Washington walks in to salvage items from the damaged Thai restaurant he owns with his wife in the aftermath of hurricane Michael in Callaway, Florida.