Hurricane Michael Devastates Florida, Two Dead

Hurricane Michael Devastates Florida, Two Dead

The commander of Tyndall Air Force Base says the "base took a beating" from Hurricane Michael and will require "extensive cleanup and repairs".

Hurricane Michael, the fiercest storm to hit Florida in more than 80 years and the third-most powerful ever to strike the USA mainland, battered the state's Gulf coast on Wednesday with roof-shredding winds, towering surf and torrential rains.

It was the "worst storm" that part of the state has ever seen, Gov. Rick Scott said.

"I've worked most of my adult life out of town..."

Most of the full-time residents, he said, have some connection to the hospitality industry.

Entire blocks of homes near the coast were washed away, leaving nothing but concrete slabs in the sand. Rows and rows of other homes were turned into piles of splintered lumber or were crumpled and slumped at odd angles.

Much of the affected area is rural and known for small tourist cities, beaches and wildlife reserves, as well as the state capital, Tallahassee, home to about 190,000 people.

But Brad Kieserman of the American Red Cross said Wednesday that as many as 320,000 people on Florida's Gulf Coast had disregarded mandatory or voluntary evacuation notices.

More than 375,000 people up and down the Gulf Coast were urged to evacuate as Michael closed in.

In Wakulla County, the sheriff's office made a list of people who chose to ride out the storm and will begin the process of checking on them Thursday, sheriff's captain Chris Savary said.

Mishelle McPherson and her ex-husband looked for the elderly mother of a friend on Thursday. The worst damage - she thought - was in her yard. The home was found smashed, with no sign of the woman. "Do you think it would have floated away?" she asked.

Ground observations suggest the hurricane is weakening as it pushes forward but a number of weather watches and warnings are still in effect. "She's my baby", a distraught O'Brien said, her face wet with tears. "It was terrible, and now there's just nothing left".

Damage in Panama City was extensive, with broken and uprooted trees and power lines down almost everywhere.

"I wanted to let you guys know exactly what is going on", she said, speaking about a curfew that had been instituted in nearby Bay County because of concerns about looting from the outages. "You want to check on things, and begin the recovery process", Scott said. "As we saw with Hurricanes H-I-M in 2017, $100 billion in insured losses did not really rock the market long term".

Over 900,000 homes and businesses in Florida, Alabama, Georgia and the Carolinas were without power. So far, Coast Guard crews in Florida have rescued 40 people and assisted 232.

Josh Morgerman, a well-known storm chaser, tweeted, "It's hard to convey in words the scale of the catastrophe in Panama City".

Storm: Cameron Sadowski walks along Panama City beach as waves crash in. Roofs were peeled off and homes split open by fallen trees.

Hundreds of cars had broken windows.

In Panama City, 20 miles northwest of Mexico Beach, buildings were crushed and boats were scattered around. Residents emerged in the early evening to assess damage when rains stopped, though skies were still overcast and windy.

WMAZ-TV quotes Brooks as saying a tree fell onto a home Wednesday afternoon and killed an 11-year-old girl. When it landed, its legs crashed through the roof of a neighboring mobile home and hit the girl in the head. A driver in North Carolina was killed when a tree fell on his auto.

The first confirmed fatality of the storm was recorded Wednesday.

Michael is expected to produce total rain accumulations of 4 to 7 inches from northern SC, west-central to northwestern North Carolina, and into south-central to southeast Virginia, including the southern Delmarva Peninsula.