Tal­ly­ing losses

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE -

PANAMA CITY — Hur­ri­cane Michael, the third-most pow­er­ful ever to strike the US main­land, weak­ened to a trop­i­cal storm early on Thurs­day but only af­ter wreak­ing a day of havoc along Florida’s Gulf Coast as it flooded homes and streets and top­pled trees and power lines in the beach­front ar­eas where it roared ashore as a Cat­e­gory 4 hur­ri­cane.

Florida of­fi­cials said Michael, pack­ing winds of 250 km/ h, was the most pow­er­ful storm to hit the state’s north­ern Pan­han­dle area since record-keep­ing be­gan more than a cen­tury ago. One death was blamed on the hur­ri­cane.

Michael had weak­ened to a Cat­e­gory 1, with max­i­mum winds of 140 km/h as of 8 pm East­ern time, but that still left it an ex­tremely dan­ger­ous storm.

By mid­night, it was down­graded fur­ther to a trop­i­cal storm as it bar­reled across cen­tral Ge­or­gia, still dump­ing tor­ren­tial rain and pack­ing fierce 110 km/h winds.

In Florida, pic­tures and video from Mex­ico Beach — a com­mu­nity of about 1,000 peo­ple where Michael made land­fall around mid­day on Wed­nes­day — showed scenes of dev­as­ta­tion, with houses float­ing in flooded streets, some ripped from their foun­da­tions and miss­ing roofs.

Roads were filled with piles of float­ing de­bris.

Af­ter be­ing bat­tered for nearly three hours by strong winds and heavy rains, roads in Panama City were vir­tu­ally im­pass­able and trees, satel­lite dishes and traf­fic lights lay in the streets.

Brief­ing US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump at the White House, Fed­eral Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency chief Brock Long said Michael was also the most in­tense hur­ri­cane to strike the Florida Pan­han­dle since record keep­ing be­gan in 1851.

“Along our coast, com­mu­ni­ties are go­ing to see unimag­in­able dev­as­ta­tion,” Scott said, with storm surge pos­ing the great­est dan­ger.

“Wa­ter will come miles in­shore and could eas­ily rise over the roofs of houses.”

Long added: “Those who stick around to ex­pe­ri­ence storm surge don’t typ­i­cally live to tell about it.”

At a rally in Penn­syl­va­nia on Wed­nes­day night, Trump of­fered his “thoughts and prayers” to those in the path of the storm and said he would be vis­it­ing Florida soon.

Hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple were or­dered to evac­u­ate their homes and the gov­er­nor told res­i­dents who had not done so to “hun­ker down and be care­ful”.

Ken Gra­ham, direc­tor of the Miami-based Na­tional Hur­ri­cane Cen­ter, said Michael is “un­for­tu­nately, a his­tor­i­cal and in­cred­i­bly dan­ger­ous and life-threat­en­ing sit­u­a­tion”.

As it came ashore, Michael was just shy of a Cat­e­gory 5 — de­fined as a storm pack­ing top sus­tained wind speeds of 253 km/h or above.

An es­ti­mated 375,000 peo­ple in more than 20 coun­ties were or­dered or ad­vised to evac­u­ate.

Trump is­sued an emer­gency dec­la­ra­tion for Florida, free­ing up fed­eral funds for re­lief op­er­a­tions and pro­vid­ing the as­sis­tance of FEMA, which has more than 3,000 peo­ple on the ground.

State of­fi­cials is­sued dis­as­ter dec­la­ra­tions in Alabama and Ge­or­gia and the storm is also ex­pected to bring heavy rain­fall to North and South Car­olina.

PE­DRO PORTAL / MIAMI HER­ALD

Ha­ley Nel­son in­spects dam­age to her prop­erty in Panama City, Florida, af­ter Hur­ri­cane Michael made land­fall on Wed­nes­day. See story, page 14

MARK WALLHEISER / GETTY IM­AGES

Peo­ple try to get some rest at Lin­coln High School as Hur­ri­cane Michael ap­proached on Wed­nes­day in Tal­la­has­see, Florida.

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