Tropical Storm Michael targets Southeast; 7 dead so far
PANAMA CITY, Fla. – The most powerful hurricane on record to hit Florida’s Panhandle left destruction and death in its path Thursday as it weakened to tropical storm status but still brought havoc to Georgia, the Carolinas and Virginia.
Hurricane Michael made landfall on Wednesday about 20 miles southeast of here with historic, 155 mph sustained winds, violent waves and sideways rain. Seven people have been reported killed from the storm: 5 in Florida, 1 in Georgia and 1 in North Carolina.
On Thursday, the true extent of damage to this picturesque seaside town was revealed.
Two hospitals were evacuated. Swaths of homes were destroyed; power lines snapped like toothpicks; cars and trucks were flipped and smashed.
Authorities say it will likely be weeks before roads are cleared and electricity is fully restored.
“It got tore up. It looks like a bomb went off,” said Chris Allen, 48, as he surveyed the damage to the historic downtown.
In Panama City, the Forest Park neighborhood’s namesake pine trees turned into destructive sledgehammers during the storm, crushing cars, roofs and outbuildings.
“This was the scariest experience I’ve ever had in my entire life,” Panama Beach resident Peter Muller said. “The scope of the damage is absolutely mind-boggling. It’s like a war zone or something out or a horror movie.”
Michael didn’t stop here. Thousands of homes and businesses were blown apart as the storm slammed across the Florida Panhandle and roared, still with hurricane force, into Georgia.
Aerial views show entire neighborhoods wiped out. An 80-mile stretch of debris-strewn Interstate 10 west of Tallahassee was shut down.