Tal­ly­ing losses

China Daily (USA) - - FRONT PAGE -

Hur­ri­cane Michael’s vi­o­lence was vis­i­ble on Thurs­day in shat­tered Florida coastal towns, where rows of homes were ripped from foun­da­tions and roofs were torn off schools by the near­record-force storm now blamed for at least seven deaths.

Michael smashed into Florida’s north­west coast near the small town of Mex­ico Beach on Wednesday with screech­ing 155 mile per hour winds, push­ing a wall of sea­wa­ter in­land.

“The wind was re­ally tear­ing us apart. It was so scary you’d poo your­self,” said re­tiree Tom Gar­cia, 60, who was trapped in­side his Mex­ico Beach home as wa­ter poured in to waist height.

He and his part­ner Cheri Pap­ineau, 50, pushed on their door for an hour to stop the storm surge burst­ing in as their four dogs sat on top of a bed float­ing in their home.

The beach town looked like it had been car­pet bombed, with lit­tle left in the first blocks from the beach. Fur­ther in­land, about half the homes were re­duced to piles of wood and sid­ing. He­li­copters flew over­head look­ing for sur­vivors as bull­doz­ers plowed paths along roads filled with shred­ded homes.

Cheryl Ship­man, 72, pointed to a few bro­ken red wooden boards, say­ing “this used to be my three-story house.”

Michael, the third-most pow­er­ful hur­ri­cane ever to hit the US main­land, weak­ened overnight to a trop­i­cal storm but marched north­east, top­pling trees with 50 mph winds and bring­ing “life threat­en­ing” flash flood­ing to Ge­or­gia and Vir­ginia, the Na­tional Hur­ri­cane Cen­ter (NHC) re­ported.

At least seven peo­ple were killed by the storm in Florida, Ge­or­gia and North Carolina from fall­ing trees and other hur­ri­cane-re­lated in­ci­dents, ac­cord­ing to state of­fi­cials.

Build­ings in Panama City were crushed, tall pine trees were sent fly­ing and a steeple was knocked off a church.

At the city’s Jinks Mid­dle School, the storm peeled back part of the gym roof and tore off a wall. A year ago the school wel­comed stu­dents and fam­i­lies dis­placed by Hur­ri­cane Maria in Puerto Rico.

Fast-mov­ing Michael, a Cat­e­gory 4 storm when it came ashore, was about 20 miles north­west of Raleigh, North Carolina, at 5 pm and set to speed up as it headed for the coast, the NHC said.

Nearly 950,000 homes and busi­nesses were with­out power in Florida, Alabama, the Caroli­nas and Ge­or­gia on Thurs­day.

The num­ber of peo­ple in emer­gency shel­ters was ex­pected to swell to 20,000 across five states by Fri­day, said Brad Kieser­man of the Amer­i­can Red Cross.

Michael pum­meled com­mu­ni­ties across the Pan­han­dle and turned streets into roof-high wa­ter­ways.

Much of down­town Port St. Joe, 12 miles east of Mex­ico Beach, was flooded af­ter Michael hit with 155 mph winds, snap­ping boats in two and hurl­ing a large ship onto the shore, res­i­dents said.

“We had houses that were on one side of the street and now they’re on the other,” said Mayor Bo Pat­ter­son, who watched trees fly by his win­dow as he rode out the storm in his home seven blocks from the beach. Pat­ter­son es­ti­mated 1,000 homes were com­pletely or par­tially de­stroyed in his town of 3,500.

The US Agri­cul­ture Depart­ment said Michael se­verely dam­aged cot­ton, tim­ber, pecans and peanuts, caus­ing es­ti­mated li­a­bil­i­ties as high as $1.9 bil­lion and af­fect­ing up to 3.7 mil­lion crop acres.

We had houses that were on one side of the street and now they’re on the other.” Bo Pat­ter­son, mayor of Port St. Joe, Florida


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13-year-old Kaleb Cas­sel re­moves be­long­ings from a flea mar­ket dam­aged by Hur­ri­cane Michael in Panama City, Florida on Thurs­day.

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