Why Hurricane Michael took everyone by surprise and what to expect after its gone

Why Hurricane Michael took everyone by surprise and what to expect after it\s gone

6 Killed As Michael Treks Through Southeast Leaving Florida Beach Towns in Ruins, Flooding Parts of North Caro

CNNs Brooke Baldwin struggled to find the words to describe the devastation left by Hurricane Michael as she flew in a helicopter above Mexico Beach, Fla., on Thursday morning.

Its gone. Its gone, Baldwin said before her cameraman panned to long rows of leveled homes below. Its — its obliterated.

As of Thursday morning, more than 500,000 customers still don't have their electricity restored across Georgia, Florida and Alabama. And as the storm continues moving in a northeast direction, forecasters predict parts of Georgia, the Carolinas and Virginia could experience "life-threatening flash flooding."

The small beachfront community, located about 40 miles south of Panama City, Fla., was where the Category 4 storm made landfall on Wednesday afternoon with maximum sustained winds of 155 mph, just 2 mph below the threshold of Category 5. It was the strongest hurricane ever to hit the Florida Panhandle, and the third strongest ever to strike the U.S. mainland.

Good god. This footage from @BrookeBCNN. Mexico Beach, Florida is “gone” after Michael. pic.twitter.com/Fj3l6SYeFZ

There have been at least two reported deaths in the U.S. since Michael made landfall along the Florida Panhandle Wednesday afternoon as a Category 4 hurricane. 

At least two people died in the storm, and federal officials fear the death toll could rise as search and rescue crews begin to assess the damage.

President Donald Trump told reporters he will most likely visit Florida on Sunday or Monday to meet with local officials and survey damage from the storm.

Video: Florida Governor Rick Scott Asks For Debate Delay In Wake Of Hurricane Michael

Roads to Mexico Beach were virtually impassable, so Baldwin, who spent the night in nearby Destin, Fla., chartered a chopper to get the view from above. Fires could be seen burning in the distance, homes shredded and boats strewn across the town of about 1,100 people.

Prior to making landfall in the U.S., flooding from Michael had already led to at least 13 deaths in Nicaragua, Honduras and El Salvador.

Its just awful to look at, Baldwin told viewers before her feed cut out. It was bad in Panama City Beach, but Ive never seen anything like this … I have no words.

Michael, which decreased to a tropical storm overnight, is continuing to weaken as it moves along the southeast U.S. coast.

A Tampa Bay Times reporter and a photojournalist who managed to make it to Mexico Beach on the ground early Thursday described what they saw:

– Tropical-storm-force (39-plus mph) winds are possible through much of the Carolinas into Thursday night or Friday.- These winds are capable of downing trees and triggering additional power outages in these areas. This is a particular concern in areas where soil is still saturated from Florence's torrential rain in northeastern South Carolina and North Carolina.- Metro areas that may experience additional power outages through Thursday night include: Charlotte, Raleigh-Durham and Richmond.- Strong winds are forecast over portions southeastern Virginia and the Delmarva Peninsula as Michael becomes post-tropical off the mid-Atlantic coast late Thursday night into Friday.

Homes completely destroyed. Refrigerators and toilets where the storm left them. Thousands of two-by-fours, chewed up and indecipherable. Refrigerators, toilets, staircases to nowhere and front doors 10 feet up with no way down. The neighborhoods along U.S. 98 looked like a childs playroom after a massive tantrum.

– Total rainfall of 4 to 7 inches is expected from the Carolinas and southern Virginia to the southern Delmarva Peninsula, with isolated totals up to 9 inches in North Carolina and Virginia. This will include some areas devastated by flooding from Hurricane Florence. That said, this system will move quickly rather than stall like Florence did and will, therefore, not bring extreme rainfall amounts. – The rest of the Northeast coast into southeast New England may see 1 to 3 inches of rain.

More than 180,000 people along the Florida Panhandle were under mandatory evacuation orders. And while many heeded those orders, some did not.

– Florida: 5.26 inches at Sumatra; 3.17 inches in Tallahassee; 2.61 inches in Panama City- Alabama: 5.54 inches in Ozark; 4.92 inches in Dothan; 1.60 inches in Montgomery- Georgia: 6.48 inches near Powder Springs; 3.37 inches in Macon- South Carolina: 6.01 inches near Hartsville; 4.47 inches in Columbia- North Carolina: 9.62 inches near Black Mountain; 6.75 inches near Boone; 2.95 inches in Asheville- Virginia: 5.75 inches near White Gate; 1.40 inches in Blacksburg

VIDEO: Helicopter tour of Mexico Beach, “Its gone”

At least four survivors were discovered by the Tampa Bay Times reporters, including a woman and a man who were looking for help with their mothers portable oxygen machine.

Slideshow: Aerial photos show the devastation left in the path of Hurricane Michael >>>

Michael arrived in southwestern Georgia early Wednesday evening as a Category 3 major hurricane, the first hurricane of that strength to track into Georgia since the Georgia Hurricane of 1898, according to Dr. Phil Klotzbach, tropical scientist at Colorado State University.

The extent of Hurricane Michael's widespread devastation in Florida became clearer Thursday as the storm continued to wreak havoc across the Southeast, knocking down trees and power poles, stranding motorists, and spawning tornadoes and flash flood emergencies. Six people have died.

Michael made landfall as a high-end Category 4 storm on the Florida Panhandle Wednesday smashing towns to rubble. On Thursday, the Carolinas and Georgia saw trees knocked down, hundreds of thousands without power, and roads closed by standing water. Evacuations were needed in Irmo, South Carolina, after multiple homes took on water. Tropical Storm Michael's downpours in Virginia also flooded homes and led to water rescues and at least four flash flood emergencies later in the day. One tornado was confirmed. 

Winds gusted to 50-55 mph, at times, in Augusta, Georgia, Charleston and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Thursday morning. There have been a number of reports of trees and power lines downed in eastern Georgia and South Carolina, including in the Columbia metro area.

Four people were killed in Florida's Gadsden County, according to Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Anglie Hightower. One of them was Steve Sweet, 44, who died when a tree slammed into his Gretna home. Details were not available on the other three deaths. In southern Georgia, an 11-year-old girl was killed when a carport hit her home in Seminole County. The county coroner later identified her as Sarah Radney. A North Carolina man was killed Thursday after a tree fell on his car in Iredell County, north of Charlotte, the Associated Press reported.

The National Hurricane Center's Storm Surge Unit, estimated peak storm surge inundation of 9 to 14 feet above ground likely occurred from Mexico Beach through Apalachee Bay, a location notorious for storm surge even from less intense tropical cyclones. 

In Florida, from Panama City through Mexico Beach — where the storm made landfall — and into Apalachicola, houses were swamped or blown apart, roofs were ripped off, boats sank and trees toppled in the high winds. Aerial images at Mexico Beach Thursday morning showed extreme damage, with homes swept completely off their foundations and destroyed and few properties left standing along the coast.

The third-strongest storm in recorded history to hit the mainland US has battered north-west Florida, flooding beach towns and snapping trees.

Video: Hurricane Michael becomes Category 1 storm as it heads toward Georgia

At least six killed by storm in Florida, Georgia and North Carolina

"Mexico Beach took the brunt," FEMA Administrator Brock Long said. "Thats probably ground zero." 

Hurricane Michael made landfall on Wednesday afternoon as a category four storm with 155mph (250km/h) winds.

As of 7:30 p.m. EDT Thursday, the total number of customers without power in Florida, Georgia, the Carolinas, and Virginia reached nearly 1.3 million, according to PowerOutage.us.

Pets are checked in, as people seek safety in a shelter as Hurricane Michael approaches on October 10, 2018 in Panama City, Florida. – Hurricane Michael closed in on Floridas Gulf Coast on Wednesday as an “extremely dangerous” category four storm packing powerful winds and a huge sea surge, US forecasters said. The Miami-based National Hurricane Center said the storm, which local forecasters are calling an “unprecedented” weather event for the area, is expected to slam ashore later in the day with “life-threatening” storm surges.

British travellers in Florida tourist hotspots escape the devastation caused by Hurricane Michael

Psychiatric hospital cut off: In the town of Chattahoochee, the Florida State Hospital, which is the state's largest and oldest psychiatric hospital, was inaccessible in the wake of Michael, according to the Miami Herald. The facility's 975 residents and 325 staffers had ample supplies, especially after food and water drops via helicopter, but the hospital lost all communication with the outside world, the report added.

Tiny Mexico Beach, Florida, a town of about 1,000 residents, appeared to be have been almost destroyed by Michaels 155 mph impact – just 1 mph short of a Category 5 storm. Aerial footage showed much of the seaside enclave reduced to kindling, trees sheared off just above the ground, tangles of power lines strewn in the streets and cars and boats piled up like rubbish. Entire blocks seemed essentially empty, with houses and everything else that had been on them smashed by storm surge and wind and presumably washed out to sea.

Hurricane Michael aftermath: “Devastated” Florida families return to find homes destroyed

Two Panama City hospitals evacuate: Bay Medical Sacred Heart began evacuating patients about 3 a.m. Thursday after the hospital was damaged by the hurricane on Wednesday. Gulf Coast Regional Medical Center also was damaged and began moving patients on Thursday. Both hospitals said their emergency rooms would remain open.

In this image made from video and provided by SevereStudios.com, damage from Hurricane Michael is seen in Mexico Beach, Fla. on Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018. Search-and-rescue teams fanned out across the Florida Panhandle to reach trapped people in Michaels wake Thursday as daylight yielded scenes of rows upon rows of houses smashed to pieces by the third-most powerful hurricane on record to hit the continental U.S. (SevereStudios.com via AP)

Video: Florida Governor says massive rescue and recovery effort underway following Hurricane Michael

Search and rescue missions underway: Long told reporters Thursday morning that the goal is to send crews into the hardest-hit areas to perform search and rescue missions. "The power's not going to be on for a while," he said.

Stretch of Interstate 10 closed: An 80-mile stretch of I-10 was closed Thursday morning as the Florida Highway Patrol worked to clear debris from the roadway. The closure impacted a stretch of the freeway from west of Tallahassee to Lake Seminole, the report added.

In this image made from video and provided by SevereStudios.com, damage from Hurricane Michael is seen in Mexico Beach, Fla. on Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018. Search-and-rescue teams fanned out across the Florida Panhandle to reach trapped people in Michaels wake Thursday as daylight yielded scenes of rows upon rows of houses smashed to pieces by the third-most powerful hurricane on record to hit the continental U.S. (SevereStudios.com via AP)

Major damage reported at Tyndall Air Force Base: The base, which sits across the bay from Panama City, posted on its Facebook page Thursday that the base had widespread catastrophic damage. The post also said there was roof damage to nearly every house on the base. No injuries were reported. A wind gust of 129 mph was measured at the base. Base personnel had been ordered to evacuate on Monday. The Facebook post said evacuees should plan on being away for an extended time.

In this image made from video and provided by SevereStudios.com, damage from Hurricane Michael is seen in Mexico Beach, Fla. on Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018. Search-and-rescue teams fanned out across the Florida Panhandle to reach trapped people in Michaels wake Thursday as daylight yielded scenes of rows upon rows of houses smashed to pieces by the third-most powerful hurricane on record to hit the continental U.S. (SevereStudios.com via AP)

Devastation in Mexico Beach: Images from Mexico Beach showed widespread devastation with homes reduced to kindling and roofs lying in the middle of U.S. 98. Storm surge lapped at roof eaves. Patricia Mulligan was in a condo on Mexico Beach when Michael slammed into the town. You cant drive a car anywhere, you cant do anything because its littered with houses, pieces of houses, Mulligan told the New York Times. She said her brother's condo was destroyed as were other units nearby. Theyre not there. Its gone, she said.

Official states of emergency were declared in Alabama, Georgia and as far north as the Carolinas and Virginia, which are still reeling from the devastating floods of Florence. Hundreds of thousands of people remained without power late Thursday across the Southeast, and some areas were essentially cut off more than 24 hours after Michael made landfall, with roads blocked by massive trees and cellphone service completely out.

Dozens Didn't Flee: State officials said as many as 285 Mexico Beach residents chose not to obey evacuation orders ahead of the storm. The National Guard was able to rescue about 20 people overnight, but it was unknown how many residents were missing, or if there were any deaths.

In this image released by the US Coast Guard (USCG), Coast Guard crew members aboard an HC-130 Hercules airplane fly over damaged homes near Apalachicola, Florida, on October 11, 2018, in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael. – Residents of the Florida Panhandle woke to scenes of devastation Thursday after Michael tore a path through the coastal region as a powerful hurricane that killed at least two people.

Storm tracker shocked by damage: "It's hard to convey in words the scale of the catastrophe in Panama City. The whole city looks like a nuke was dropped on it. I'm literally shocked at the scale of the destruction," tweeted chaser Josh Morgerman.

Panama City residents feel wrath of Michael: Vance Beu, 29, was staying with his mother at her Panama City apartment when a pine tree slashed through the roof. Beu said the roar of the storm sounded like a jet engine as the winds accelerated. "It was terrifying, honestly. There was a lot of noise. We thought the windows were going to break at any time. We had the inside windows kind of barricaded in with mattresses," Beu said.

The National Hurricane Center in Miami said early Thursday that the eye of Michael was about 90 miles (144 kilometers) northeast of Macon, Georgia and about 45 miles (72 kilometers) west of Augusta. The storms maximum sustained winds have decreased to 50 mph (80 kph) and it was moving to the northeast at 21 mph (33 kph). The core of Michael will move across eastern Georgia into Central South Carolina on Thursday morning.

Reports of looting: Storm chasers posted video of people grabbing items from inside a heavily damaged Family Dollar store in Panama City on Thursday. Bay County Sheriff Tommy Ford said there was widespread looting of homes and businesses on Panama City Beach, too. He asked for 50 members of the National Guard for protection.

Damage in Panama City near where Michael came ashore Wednesday afternoon was so extensive that broken and uprooted trees and downed power lines lay nearly everywhere. Roofs were peeled away, sent airborne, and homes were split open by fallen trees. Twisted street signs lay on the ground. Palm trees whipped wildly in the winds. More than 380,000 homes and businesses were without power at the height of the storm.

News outlets work through power loss: In Panama City Beach, WJHG-TV employees were told they could evacuate the station if they felt unsafe, but a few remained inside the building, according to reporter Danielle Ellis. The station lost power a few hours later. The Panama City News Herald lost power and stayed in operation using a backup generator, but did not have internet access at the office.

A Panhandle man was killed by a tree that toppled on a home, Gadsden County Sheriffs Office spokeswoman Anglie Hightower said. But she added emergency crews trying to reach the home were hampered by downed trees and debris blocking roadways. The debris was a problem in many coastal communities and still hundreds of thousands of people were also left without power.

Port St. Joe Mayor rides out the storm: Mayor Bo Patterson remained in his home seven blocks from the beach during the storm. "It feels like you don't know when the next tree is going to fall on top of you because it's blowing so ferociously," he told Reuters by telephone. "It's very, very scary. We have trees being uprooted, heavy, heavy rain."

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.

Apalachicola suffers heavy damage: Sally Crown, who rode out the storm in her house, ventured out after the storm had passed. "It's absolutely horrendous. Catastrophic," she said. "There's flooding. Boats on the highway. A house on the highway. Houses that have been there forever are just shattered."

Trees downed across capital city: In Tallahassee, the power loss from Michael surpassed the loss from Hermine over two years ago, according to Mayor Andrew Gillum. He said about 110,000 homes and businesses were without power in the city Thursday morning and that one of the city's sewer systems failed. He urged patience and optimism from residents as the city works through its recovery. "I'm counting our many, many blessings. This storm for us certainly was not as bad for us as it could have been."

Federal disaster approved: President Donald Trump approved a major disaster declaration for the state in the wake of the storm, making federal aid available for state and local response efforts.

A day after the supercharged storm crashed ashore amid white sand beaches, fishing towns and military bases, Michael was no longer a Category 4 monster packing 155 mph (250 kph) winds. As the tropical storm continued to weaken it was still menacing the Southeast with heavy rains, blustery winds and possible spinoff tornadoes.

Thousands lose power: After its assault on Florida, Michael's wind and rain pelted southern and central Georgia, knocking out power and downing trees in the southwestern corner of the state. Early Thursday morning, about 350,000 homes and business were without power.

Trees downed: Of the hundreds of trees that were knocked down, one fell on a vehicle in northwest Atlanta, trapping a 31-year-old woman inside. She was taken to a hospital with internal injuries.

Numerous tornadoes reported: The National Weather Service said it had confirmed three tornadoes were spawned by Michael. An EF-0 tornado touched down a couple of miles southwest of Atlanta and snapped several large trees. A high-end EF-1 tornado touched down in Crawford County. Numerous trees were knocked down or uprooted. Several homes were damaged by falling trees, NWS said. Damage was also found in Peach County that was thought to be caused by a brief tornado, but NWS said it wants to re-examine radar data to confirm it.

Agriculture decimated: With the harvest underway, many farms in South Georgia had their crops ravaged by the storm. "Our worst dreams are being realized," Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black told reporters Thursday morning. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that at least 53 poultry houses had been wiped out in Coffee, Houston, Mitchell, Wilcox and Decatur counties. 

Injuries reported in Dothan: At least three people were injured in Dothan when a tree fell on a home Wednesday afternoon, WSFA.com reported. One of the victims was in critical condition, the report added.

Widespread power outages: More than 60,000 homes and businesses in southern Alabama were without power early Thursday.

Another storm brings flooding: Just weeks after being slammed by Hurricane Florence, the Carolinas are yet again seeing impacts from a tropical system. On Thursday morning, flooding was reported in parts of western North Carolina after hours of heavy rain overwhelmed rivers and streams. Several roads in Boone, North Carolina, were impacted the floodwaters Thursday morning, the city's police department tweeted. Gov. Roy Cooper said dozens of people were rescued from flash floods and rising rivers, the News & Observer reported.

Students sent home early: South of Asheville, schools in Henderson and Polk counties were closed Thursday because of the storm. Watauga County also sent students home shortly after they arrived Thursday morning. Other school districts in North and South Carolina also closed for the day.

Hurricane Hunters inside eye as Michael makes landfall

Don't drive around barricades: Dozens of roads and bridges damaged by Florence are still being repaired, and transportation officials urged travelers to refrain from driving around barricades, according to the State.

Homes flooded: Water rose knee-high and waist-high in communities near Columbia, South Carolina. At least 20 people were evacuated from their homes in Irmo, the State reported, and more than 40 homes had water in them, Ben Smith, assistant chief of the Irmo Fire District, said. 

Hurricane Michael crushes Georgia, heads toward Carolinas

State Fair delayed: In Raleigh, organizers for the North Carolina State Fair told WRAL.com that the opening was delayed from Thursday to Friday because of the storm's impacts.

Flooded roads and water rescues: Numerous roads were closed and water rescues need as rain from Michael flooded southwest Virginia on Thursday afternoon, the National Weather Service reported, including Roanoke, Danville and southern Pittsylvania County, and Henry County. Hundreds of trees were down in Henry County, too. Reports said several had fallen on homes with people trapped inside. 

Where is I-10 Closed in Florida Panhandle? Hurricane Michael Closes East, West Interstate 10 Traffic, Detour Required

Tornado warnings: More than a half dozen tornado warnings were issued Thursday evening for parts of southwestern and central Virginia. The Richmond Times-Dispatch said the National Weather Service reported that a tree fell through a house in Williamsburg as a result of a possible tornado. Earlier, the NWS said radar had confirmed a tornado near Scott's Fork in southern Amelia County.

Its a miracle you and I are alive: Mexico Beach, Fla., residents search whats left after Hurricane Michael

Water enters homes: The NWS said the emergency manager for Prince Edward County reported flooding was entering homes, businesses, and government buildings across the county.

State of emergency: Gov. Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency Thursday as the Commonwealth began to experience serious impacts from the storm.


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