Storm brings ‘unimag­in­able destruction’

Greenwich Time - - OBITUARIES/NEWS -

The dev­as­ta­tion in­flicted by Hur­ri­cane Michael came into fo­cus Thurs­day with rows upon rows of homes found smashed to pieces in Panama City, Fla., 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 three deaths were blamed on Michael, the most pow­er­ful hur­ri­cane to hit the con­ti­nen­tal U.S. in over 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.

Gov. 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 small Gulf Coast com­mu­nity of Mex­ico Beach was known as a slice of Old Florida.

Now it lies in splin­ters. Hit head-on by Hur­ri­cane Michael, nu­mer­ous homes in this re­sort town of about 1,190 peo­ple were shat­tered or ripped from their foun­da­tions. Boats were tossed like toys. The streets clos­est to the wa­ter looked as if a bomb had gone off.

What the 9-foot storm surge didn’t de­stroy, the 155 mph winds fin­ished off.

Now, res­cuers and res­i­dents are strug­gling to get into the ground-zero town to as­sess the dam­age and search for the hun­dreds of peo­ple be­lieved to have stayed be­hind.

Gerald Herbert / Associated Press

Res­cue per­son­nel on Thurs­day search amidst de­bris in the af­ter­math of Hur­ri­cane Michael in Mex­ico Beach, Fla.

Sean Ray­ford / Getty Images

Hec­tor Ben­thall, right, gets a hug from his neigh­bor Keito Jor­dan af­ter rem­nants of Hur­ri­cane Michael sent a tree crash­ing into Ben­thall’s home on Thurs­day in Columbia, S.C.

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