Hurricane Michael left path of destruction, isn’t done yet


PANAMA CITY, Fla. — The third-most powerful hurricane to hit the U.S. mainland in recorded history left a wide path of destruction across Florida and Georgia, destroying homes and shopping centers and felling trees that killed at least two people. And it’s not done yet.

Hurricane Michael finally weakened to a tropical storm on Thursday, no longer a Category 4 monster packing 155 mph (250 kph) winds. But it was still menacing the Southeast with heavy rains, blustery winds and possible spinoff tornadoes, soaking areas swamped by epic flooding last month from Hurricane Florence.

By 5 a.m., Michael’s eye was about 45 miles (72 kilometers) west of Augusta, Georgia, packing top winds of 50 mph (80 kph) and moving at 21 mph (33 kph) into South Carolina, the National Hurricane Center in Miami said.

Thousands of law enforcement officers and search and rescue teams rolled out in its wake to find survivors amid the wreckage of homes where people defied evacuation orders. Michael washed away white sand beaches, hammered military bases and destroyed coastal communities, stripping trees to stalks, shredding roofs, toppling trucks and pushing boats into buildings.

It will take some time for residents of north Florida to take stock of the enormity of the disaster. Reaching the worst-hit areas wasn’t easy. The Florida Highway Patrol closed 80 miles of Interstate 10, the main east-west route along Florida’s Panhandle, to clear debris.

Many homes were ripped apart or washed away altogether in Mexico Beach, a town of 1,000 where the hurricane made landfall and the storm surge pushed lead-grey water up to the rooftops. Authorities said falling trees killed a man outside Tallahassee, Florida, and an 11-year-old girl in southwest Georgia.

An Associated Press team drove for miles and encountered extensive destruction around Panama City, just west of where the center of Michael’s eye hit the shore. Although most homes were still standing, no property was left undamaged. Downed power lines lay nearly everywhere. Roofs were peeled away and sent airborne. Aluminum siding was shredded to ribbons. Homes were split open by fallen trees. Hundreds of cars had broken windows, many turned askew by the wind. Twisted street signs lay on the ground. Pine trees were stripped into stalks and snapped off about 20 feet high.

More than 780,000 homes and businesses were without power Thursday in the wake of the storm.

Families tentatively emerged from darkened shelters and hotels to this unfamiliar and perilous landscape, under a perfectly clear blue sky, to the sounds of a Coast Guard helicopter hovering over damaged neighborhoods, beeping security alarms and the occasional sirens of police and fire department vehicles.

Vance Beu, 29, was staying with his mother at her home, Spring Gate Apartments, a complex of single-story wood frame buildings where they piled up mattresses around themselves for protection. A pine tree punched a hole in their roof and his ears even popped when the barometric pressure went lower. The roar of the winds, he said, sounded like a jet engine.

“It was terrifying, honestly. There was a lot of noise. …read more

Source:: Deseret News – U.S. & World News

      

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