Hurricane leaves ‘unimaginable destruction’
The devastation inflicted by Hurricane Michael came into focus yesterday with rows upon rows of homes found smashed to pieces, and rescue crews began making their way into the stricken areas in hopes of accounting for hundreds of people who may have stayed behind.
At least six deaths were blamed on Michael, the most powerful hurricane to hit the continental US in more than 50 years, and it wasn’t done yet. Though reduced to a tropical storm, it brought flash flooding to North Carolina and Virginia, soaking areas still recovering from Hurricane Florence.
Under a perfectly clear blue sky, families living along the Florida Panhandle emerged from darkened shelters and hotels to a perilous landscape of shattered homes and shopping centers, beeping security alarms, wailing sirens and hovering helicopters.
Governor Rick Scott said the Panhandle woke up to “unimaginable destruction”.
“So many lives have been changed forever. So many families have lost everything,” he said.
The full extent of Michael’s fury was only slowly becoming clear, with some of the hardest-hit areas difficult to reach because of roads blocked by debris or water.
Some of the worst damage was in Mexico Beach, where the hurricane crashed ashore as a Category 4 monster with 250km/h winds and a storm surge of 2.7m.
Entire blocks of homes near the beach were obliterated, reduced to nothing but concrete slabs in the sand. Rows and rows of other homes were turned into piles of splintered lumber or were crumpled and slumped at odd angles.
Entire roofs were torn away and dropped onto a road.
More than 900,000 homes and businesses in Florida, Alabama, Georgia and the Carolinas were without power.
The Coast Guard said it rescued at least 27 people before and after the hurricane came ashore, mostly from homes along the Florida coastline, and searched for more victims.
Lee Cathey, 37, Al Cathey, 71, and Charles Smith, 56, survey damage in the coastal township of Mexico Beach.