Deal­ing with the af­ter­math

Grim search through ru­ined land­scape fol­low­ing hur­ri­cane Michael

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - WORLD -

Search and res­cue teams looked for bodies through a ru­ined land­scape of smashed homes and piles of sand Fri­day, while more deaths were re­ported in Vir­ginia, 600 miles (965 kilo­me­tres) from where Hur­ri­cane Michael made land­fall.

Michael, so pow­er­ful that it re­mained a hur­ri­cane for 12 hours af­ter mak­ing land­fall in Mex­ico Beach, thrashed the Caroli­nas and Vir­ginia and was grow­ing stronger again over the At­lantic, where the Na­tional Hur­ri­cane Cen­ter pre­dicted it would even­tu­ally me­nace Bri­tain with trop­i­cal-storm force winds.

Au­thor­i­ties re­ported 11 deaths as of Fri­day, with Vir­ginia’s state med­i­cal ex­am­iner rul­ing four drown­ings and the firefighter’s death were storm-re­lated. High winds, downed trees, streets in­un­dated by ris­ing wa­ters and mul­ti­ple res­cues of mo­torists from wa­ter­logged cars played out in spots around Vir­ginia and neigh­bour­ing North Carolina.

Linda Mar­quardt and her hus­band some­how sur­vived the very worst of it in Mex­ico Beach, where Hur­ri­cane Michael’s eye passed di­rectly over their home.

Surg­ing wa­ter filled their first floor, now muddy and ru­ined. They’re sur­rounded now by dev­as­ta­tion: fishing boats and cars tossed like toys, empty slabs where peo­ple hope­fully es­caped be­fore houses ex­ploded in 155 mph (249 kph) winds and were washed away by the storm surge.

Row af­ter row of beach­front homes were oblit­er­ated by the epic Cat­e­gory 4 hur­ri­cane. The de­struc­tion along Florida’s white-sand northern Gulf Coast was called catastrophic. Of­fi­cials pre­dicted re­build­ing costs in the billions.

“All of my fur­ni­ture was float­ing,” said Mar­quardt, 67. “A river just started com­ing down the road. It was aw­ful, and now there’s just noth­ing left.”

All told, more than 900,000 homes and busi­nesses in Florida, Alabama, Ge­or­gia and the Caroli­nas were with­out power.

Thou­sands of Na­tional Guard troops, law en­force­ment of­fi­cers and res­cue teams still had much to do in the hard­est hit area: Florida’s Pan­han­dle. Fam­i­lies liv­ing along the Pan­han­dle are now faced with a strug­gle to sur­vive in a per­ilous land­scape of shat­tered homes and shop­ping cen­tres, the storm de­bris spread far and wide.

Most of Panama City’s homes were still stand­ing, but no prop­erty was left un­dam­aged. Downed power lines and twisted street signs lay all around. Alu­minum sid­ing was shred­ded and homes were split by fallen trees. Hun­dreds of cars had bro­ken win­dows. Pa­tients were moved out of hur­ri­cane-dam­aged hos­pi­tals and nurs­ing homes.

Tyn­dall Air Force Base “took a beat­ing,” so much so that Col. Brian Laid­law told the 3,600 men and women sta­tioned on the base not to come back. Many of the 600 fam­i­lies who live there had fol­lowed or­ders to pack what they could in a sin­gle suit­case as they were evac­u­ated.

A small “ride-out” team that hun­kered down as the hur­ri­cane’s de­struc­tive eye­wall passed di­rectly over­head ven­tured out to find nearly ev­ery build­ing se­verely dam­aged, many a com­plete loss. The ele­men­tary school, the flight line, the marina, the run­ways -- all were dev­as­tated.

“I will not re­call you and your fam­i­lies un­til we can guar­an­tee your safety. At this time I can’t tell you how long that will take, but I’m on it,” Laid­law said.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who was go­ing out with the Na­tional Guard Fri­day to sur­vey the dam­age from the air and on the ground, called it “unimag­in­able de­struc­tion.”

“So many lives have been changed for­ever. So many fam­i­lies have lost ev­ery­thing,” he lamented.

AP PHOTO

A man walks through the dam­aged his­tor­i­cal down­town district in the af­ter­math of hur­ri­cane Michael in Panama City, Fla., Fri­day.

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