Dealing with the aftermath
Grim search through ruined landscape after Michael
Search and rescue teams looked for bodies through a ruined landscape of smashed homes and piles of sand Friday, while more deaths were reported in Virginia, 600 miles (965 kilometres) from where Hurricane Michael made landfall.
Michael, so powerful that it remained a hurricane for 12 hours after making landfall in Mexico Beach, thrashed the Carolinas and Virginia and was growing stronger again over the Atlantic, where the National Hurricane Center predicted it would eventually menace Britain with tropical-storm force winds.
Authorities reported 11 deaths as of Friday, with Virginia’s state medical examiner ruling four drownings and the firefighter’s death were storm-related. 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.
Linda Marquardt and her husband somehow survived the very worst of it in Mexico Beach, where Hurricane Michael’s eye passed directly over their home.
Surging water filled their first floor, now muddy and ruined. They’re surrounded now by devastation: fishing boats and cars tossed like toys, empty slabs where people hopefully escaped before houses exploded in 155 mph (249 kph) winds and were washed away by the storm surge.
Row after row of beachfront homes were obliterated by the epic Category 4 hurricane. The destruction along Florida’s white-sand northern Gulf Coast was called catastrophic. Officials predicted rebuilding costs in the billions.
“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.”
All told, more than 900,000 homes and businesses in Florida, Alabama, Georgia and the Carolinas were without power.
Thousands of National Guard troops, law enforcement officers and rescue teams still had much to do in the hardest hit area: Florida’s Panhandle. Families living along the Panhandle are now faced with a struggle to survive in a perilous landscape of shattered homes and shopping centres, the storm debris spread far and wide.
Most of Panama City’s homes were still standing, but no property was left undamaged. Downed power lines and twisted street signs lay all around. Aluminum siding was shredded and homes were split by fallen trees. Hundreds of cars had broken windows. Patients were moved out of hurricane damaged hospitals and nursing homes.