The Detroit News - - News - Craig Fu­gate, for­mer di­rec­tor of FEMA

Cat­e­gory 4 mon­ster with 155 mph winds and a storm surge of 9 feet.

En­tire blocks of homes near the beach were oblit­er­ated, leav­ing con­crete slabs in the sand. Rows and rows of other homes were ren­dered piles of splin­tered lum­ber. En­tire roofs were torn away in the town of about 1,000 peo­ple, now a scene of ut­ter dev­as­ta­tion.

State of­fi­cials said 285 peo­ple in Mex­ico Beach had de­fied a manda­tory evac­u­a­tion or­der ahead of Michael. More than 375,000 peo­ple up and down the Gulf Coast were or­dered or urged to clear out as Michael closed in. But emergency au­thor­i­ties lamented that many ig­nored the warn­ings.

Na­tional Guard troops made their way into the ground-zero town and found 20 sur­vivors Wed­nes­day night, and more res­cue crews ar­rived Thurs­day. But the fate of many res­i­dents was un­known.

Mishelle McPher­son and her ex-hus­band searched for the el­derly mother of a friend. The woman lived in a small cin­derblock house about 150 yards from the Gulf and thought she would be OK. The home was found smashed, with no sign of the woman.

“Do you think her body would be here? Do you think it would have floated away?” McPher­son asked.

Linda Mar­quardt, 67, rode out the storm with her hus­band at their home in Mex­ico Beach. When the house filled with storm surge wa­ter, they fled up­stairs. “All of my fur­ni­ture was float­ing,” she said. “A river just started com­ing down the road. It was aw­ful, and now there’s just noth­ing left.”

As thou­sands of Na­tional Guard troops, law en­force­ment of­fi­cers and med­i­cal teams spread out, the gov­er­nor pleaded with peo­ple in the dev­as­tated ar­eas to stay away be­cause of haz­ards such as fallen trees and power lines.

“I know you just want to go home. You want to check on things and be­gin the re­cov­ery process,” Scott said. But “we have to make sure things are safe.”

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

The Coast Guard said it res­cued at least 27 peo­ple be­fore and af­ter the hur­ri­cane’s land­fall, mostly from coastal homes. Nine peo­ple had to be res­cued by he­li­copter from a bath­room of a home in hard-hit Panama City af­ter their roof col­lapsed, Petty Of­fi­cer 3rd Class Ron­ald Hodges said.

In Panama City, most homes were still stand­ing, but no prop­erty was left un­dam­aged. Downed power lines and twisted street signs lay all around. Roofs had been peeled off. Alu­minum sid­ing was shred­ded and homes were split by fallen trees. Hun­dreds of cars had bro­ken win­dows. Pine trees were stripped and snapped off about 20 feet high.

In neigh­bor­ing Panama City Beach, Bay County Sher­iff Tommy Ford re­ported wide­spread loot­ing of homes and busi­nesses. He im­posed a cur­few and asked for 50 mem­bers of the Na­tional Guard for pro­tec­tion.

The hur­ri­cane also dam­aged hos­pi­tals and nurs­ing homes in the Panama City area, and of­fi­cials worked to evac­u­ate hun­dreds of pa­tients. The dam­age at Bay Med­i­cal Sa­cred Heart in­cluded blown-out win­dows and a cracked ex­te­rior wall though no pa­tients were hurt.

The state men­tal hospi­tal in Chat­ta­hoochee, which has a sec­tion for the crim­i­nally in­sane, was cut off by land, and food and sup­plies were be­ing flown in, au­thor­i­ties said.

A man out­side Tal­la­has­see, Florida, was killed by a fall­ing tree, and an 11-year-old girl in Ge­or­gia died when the winds picked up a car­port and dropped it on her home. One of the car­port’s legs punc­tured the roof and hit her in the head. A driver in North Carolina was killed when a tree fell on his car.

As the storm charged north, it spun off pos­si­ble tor­na­does and downed power lines and trees in Ge­or­gia. Fore­cast­ers said it could drop up to 7 inches of rain over the Caroli­nas and Vir­ginia be­fore push­ing out to sea in com­ing hours.

Street flood­ing was re­ported in Roanoke and other south­west­ern Vir­ginia cities that re­ported mo­torists caught in flood­ing had to be res­cued.

Ge­or­gia’s Depart­ment of Agriculture is co­or­di­nat­ing ef­forts to as­sist re­cov­ery in South­west and Cen­tral Ge­or­gia. Com­mis­sioner Gary W. Black, in a news re­lease Thurs­day, said crops, an­i­mals and in­fra­struc­ture have all taken a sub­stan­tial loss be­cause of the storm.

Fore­cast­ers said Michael was still a po­tent trop­i­cal storm Thurs­day evening, cen­tered about 5 miles north­west of Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina, and pack­ing top sus­tained winds of 50 mph. It was rac­ing to the north­east at 24 mph amid warn­ings it could spread dam­ag­ing winds and more flash flood­ing in the re­gion.

Joe Raedle / Getty Images

Gavin Con­klin, 17, gath­ers wa­ter bot­tles from a neigh­bor’s re­frig­er­a­tor in Panama City.

Joe Raedle / Getty Images

El­iz­a­beth Han­son, right, and daugh­ter Emaly Han­son hug their neigh­bor Cindy Clark af­ter deal­ing with their homes in Mex­ico Beach, Florida.

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