Storm leaves US Panhandle reeling
Powerful Hurricane Michael slammed into the Florida Panhandle with terrifying winds of 250kmh yesterday, splintering homes and submerging neighbourhoods before continuing its destructive march inland across the Southeast.
It was the most powerful hurricane to hit the continental U.S. in nearly 50 years and at least one death was reported during its passage.
Supercharged by abnormally warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, the Category 4 storm crashed ashore in the early afternoon near Mexico Beach, a tourist town about midway along the Panhandle, a 320km stretch of white-sand beach resorts, fishing towns and military bases. After it ravaged the Panhandle, Michael entered south Georgia as a Category 3 hurricane – the most powerful in recorded history for that part of the neighbouring state.
In north Florida, Michael battered the shoreline with sideways rain, powerful gusts and crashing waves, swamping streets and docks, flattening trees, stripped away leaves, shredding awnings and peeling away shingles. It also set off transformer explosions and knocked out power to more than 388,000 homes and businesses.
A Panhandle man was killed by a tree toppling on a home, Gadsden County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Anglie Hightower said. She said authorities got a call that the man was trapped but rescue crews were hampered by downed trees and debris blocking roadways. Authorities haven’t yet confirmed the man’s name.
Damage in Panama City was extensive, with broken and uprooted trees and power lines down nearly everywhere. Roofs were peeled off and homes split open by fallen trees. Twisted street signs lay on the ground. Residents emerged in the early evening to assess damage when rains stopped, though skies were still overcast and windy.
Vance Beu, 29, was staying with his mother at her apartment, Spring Gate Apartments, a small complex of single-story wood frame apartment buildings. A pine tree punched a hole in their roof and he said the roar of the storm sounded like a jet engine as the winds accelerated. Their ears even popped as the barometric pressure dropped.
‘‘It was terrifying, honestly. There was a lot of noise. We thought the windows were going to break at any time. We had the inside windows kind of barricaded in with mattresses,’’ Beu said. –AP
Haley Nelson inspects damages to her family properties in Panama City, Florida, after Hurricane Michael made landfall in Florida’s Panhandle yesterday.
Sunken and damaged boats bump in the high seas at the Port St Joe Marina after Hurricane Michael struck yesterday.
Emily Hindle lies on the floor at an evacuation shelter set up at Rutherford High School, Panama City Beach, in advance of Hurricane Michael.