Storm flattens Florida
CATEGORY 4: NEIGHBOURHOODS TORN APART ‘LIKE IN CARPET BOMBING’
US army, rescuers battle one of the worst mega-hurricanes with all they got.
Rescuers searched for survivors yesterday after one of the most powerful hurricanes in US history slammed into the Florida Panhandle and killed at least seven people.
Hurricane Michael struck Florida’s northwest coast near the small town of Mexico Beach on Wednesday afternoon with top sustained winds of 250km/h, pushing a wall of seawater inland and causing widespread flooding.
At least seven people were killed in Florida, Georgia and North Carolina, according to state officials.
By early yesterday morning, the fast-moving storm was about 105km northeast of Norfolk, Virginia, with top sustained winds of 95 km/h, the US National Hurricane Centre said. It was threatening to bring flash floods and wind damage to parts of North Carolina and the southern Mid-Atlantic still recovering from last month’s Hurricane Florence.
The storm, which came ashore as a Category 4 on the fivestep Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale, tore entire neighbourhoods apart, reducing homes and businesses to piles of wood and siding, damaging roads and leaving scenes of devastation that resembled the aftermath of carpet bombing.
US Army personnel used heavy equipment to push a path through debris in Mexico Beach to allow rescuers through to search for trapped residents, survivors or casualties, as Blackhawk helicopters circled overhead. Rescuers from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema) used dogs, drones and GPS in the search.
“We prepare for the worst and hope for the best. This is obviously the worst,” said Stephanie Palmer, a Fema firefighter and rescuer from Coral Springs, Florida. Many of the injured in Florida were taken to hard-hit Panama City 32km northwest of Mexico Beach.
Gulf Coast Regional Medical Centre treated some but the hospital evacuated 130 patients as it faced challenges running on generators after the storm knocked out power, ripped off part of its roof and smashed windows, according to a spokesperson for the hospital’s owner, HCA Healthcare Inc.
Much of downtown Port St Joe, 19km east of Mexico Beach, was flooded after Michael snapped boats in two and hurled a large ship onto the shore, residents said.
“We had houses that were on one side of the street and now they’re on the other,” said mayor Bo Patterson, who watched trees fly by his window as he rode out the storm in his home seven blocks from the beach.
Patterson estimated 1 000 homes were completely or partially destroyed in his town of 3 500 people.
In Apalachicola, about 48km east of where the storm made landfall, a little less than half of the 2 200 people stayed and rode out the storm, residents said.
“I’ve never seen anything like this craziness,” said Tamara’s Cafe owner Danny Itzkovitz, 54, as he was busy grilling burgers. “We’ve had storms before – in ’05 we had four or five in a row. I didn’t even take the boards off my window. But, holy smokes, this one kicked our butt.” – Reuters
Holy smokes, this hurricane kicked our butt
STILL THERE. An American flag lies amongst rubble left in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach, Florida.