Sav­age storm turns deadly



A stronger-than-ex­pected Hur­ri­cane Michael bat­tered Florida and parts of Ge­or­gia Wed­nes­day with heavy rains and high winds, killing at least one man who was home when he was hit by a fall­ing tree, au­thor­i­ties said.

“Cat­a­strophic” was the word widely used to de­scribe the Cat­e­gory 4 storm that pounded the Pan­han­dle with 155-mph winds and a life-threat­en­ing storm surge.

The winds were only 2 mph short of a Cat­e­gory 5 storm. The last Cat­e­gory 5 storm to strike Florida was Hur­ri­cane An­drew in 1992.

Mighty Michael knocked out power for nearly 400,000 Florida cus­tomers as of Wed­nes­day evening, and an­other 60,000 cus­tomers were with­out power in Alabama.

Storm surges were pre­dicted to hit land at 14 feet, and 12 inches of rain was ex­pected across the Florida Pan­han­dle and the state’s Big Bend re­gion, as well as in south­east Alabama and parts of south­west and cen­tral Ge­or­gia.

“We are catch­ing some hell,” Tim­o­thy Thomas, who rode out the storm with his wife in their home in Panama City Beach, Fla., told The As­so­ci­ated Press.

Diane Far­ris, 57, and her son walked to a high school that had been turned into a shel­ter near their home in Panama City. There, they found about 1,100 peo­ple crammed into a space meant for about half that many. Far­ris and her son were un­able to com­mu­ni­cate with their fam­ily be­cause their only phone got wet and stopped work­ing.

“I’m wor­ried about my daugh­ter and grand­baby,” Far­ris said. “I don’t know where they are. You know, that’s hard.”

The hur­ri­cane, whipped into a frenzy by ab­nor­mally warm wa­ters in the Gulf of Mex­ico, is one of the most pow­er­ful to ever hit the U.S. main­land.

The su­per­storm roared ashore at about 1:30 p.m. near Mex­ico Beach, a tourist town about halfway up the Pan­han­dle, a lightly pop­u­lated, stretch of white-sand beach re­sorts, fish­ing towns and mil­i­tary bases.

The storm bat­tered the coast­line with side­ways rain and pow­er­ful winds that bent trees and lifted heavy de­bris.

A Florida man died when a tree fell through his home, the first Michael-re­lated death re­ported.

A spokes­woman for the Gads­den County sher­iff’s of­fice told the Daily News that downed power lines and other block­ages pre-

vented help from get­ting to the uniden­ti­fied man in his Greens­boro home, near Tal­la­has­see.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott warned of “unimag­in­able dev­as­ta­tion.”

“This is the worst storm that our Florida Pan­han­dle has seen in a cen­tury,” Scott said on Wed­nes­day morn­ing. “Hur­ri­cane Michael is upon us, and now is the time to seek refuge.”

Scott said search and res­cue teams were head­ing into the state’s hard­est-hit ar­eas to help sur­vivors.

Pres­i­dent Trump was among those voic­ing con­cern about Florida as the Sun­shine State took a pound­ing.

“We are with you Florida,” Trump tweeted, although he was ac­tu­ally headed to Penn­syl­va­nia for a cam­paign event, the same kind of de­ci­sion he once bashed for­mer Pres­i­dent Barack Obama for.

“Yes­ter­day Obama cam­paigned with JayZ & Spring­steen while Hur­ri­cane Sandy vic­tims across NY & NJ are still dec­i­mated by Sandy. Wrong!” Trump tweeted in 2012, days af­ter the su­per­storm brought chaos to the five bor­oughs and sur­round­ing ar­eas.

Na­tional Hur­ri­cane Cen­ter Di­rec­tor Ken Gra­ham warned of struc­tural dam­age in­clud­ing downed power lines and trees as well as winds strong enough to rip the roofs off houses. He added that the ef­fects of the storm will ex­tend far be­yond the coast and into some parts of cen­tral Ge­or­gia.

A storm surge warn­ing was in ef­fect Wed­nes­day from the Okaloosa/Wal­ton county lines to the An­clote River and from there to Anna Maria Is­land — which in­cludes Tampa Bay. Sev­eral ar­eas could see surges peak­ing at 14 feet, which is a com­plete “in­un­da­tion” of wa­ter, Gra­ham noted.

Michael re­port­edly killed at least 13 peo­ple in Cen­tral Amer­ica: six in Hon­duras, four in Nicaragua and three in El Sal­vador.

More than 370,000 peo­ple in Florida were or­dered to evac­u­ate, but of­fi­cials said many ig­nored the warn­ing.

Schools and state of­fices in the area are to re­main shut this week.

Michael is ex­pected to be car­ry­ing trop­i­cal storm­force winds when it reaches the Caroli­nas, which are still reel­ing from last month’s Hur­ri­cane Florence.

Storm chaser is trapped by de­bris from Hur­ri­cane Michael as it ham­mered Panama City, Fla., Wed­nes­day.

Boats blown by Hur­ri­can Michael form pile of de­bris in Panama City, Fla. Below, peo­ple check car af­ter ho­tel canopy crashed down on it.


Af­ter Michael slammed into Panama City, Mike Lind­sey (in­set, above) looks over wreck­age in his an­tiques shop. Dra­matic ae­rial photo (in­set, below) looks down into the eye of su­per­storm.

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