By Jay Reeves and Brendan Farrington
11 October 2018

PANAMA CITY, Florida (AP) – The devastation inflicted by Hurricane Michael came into focus Thursday with rows upon rows of homes found smashed to pieces, and rescue crews struggling to make their way into the stricken areas in hopes of accounting for hundreds of people who may have stayed behind.

At least three deaths were blamed on Michael, the most powerful hurricane to hit the continental U.S. in over 50 years, and it wasn’t done yet: Though reduced to a tropical storm, it brought flash flooding to North Carolina and Virginia, soaking areas still recovering from Hurricane Florence.

Under a clear blue sky, families living along the Florida Panhandle emerged from shelters and hotels to a perilous landscape of shattered homes and shopping centers, beeping security alarms, wailing sirens and hovering helicopters.

Gov. Rick Scott said the Panhandle woke up to “unimaginable destruction.”

“So many lives have been changed forever. So many families have lost everything,” he said.

The full extent of Michael’s fury was only slowly becoming clear, with some of the hardest-hit areas difficult to reach because of roads blocked by debris or water. An 80-mile (130-kilometer) stretch of Interstate 10, the main east-west route along the Panhandle, was closed.

Some of the worst damage was in Mexico Beach, where the hurricane crashed ashore Wednesday as a Category 4 monster with 155 mph (250 kph) winds and a storm surge of 9 feet (2.7 meters). Video from a drone revealed widespread devastation across the town of about 1,000 people.

Entire blocks of homes near the beach were obliterated, reduced to 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. Entire roofs were torn away and dropped onto a road. [more]

‘Changed Forever’: Florida Panhandle devastated by Michael


In this image made from video and provided by SevereStudios.com, damage from Hurricane Michael is seen in Mexico Beach, Florida. on Thursday, 11 October 2018. Search-and-rescue teams fanned out across the Florida Panhandle to reach trapped people in Michael's 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. Photo: SevereStudios.com / AP

By Jay Reeves and Tamara Lush
11 October 2018

MEXICO BEACH, Florida (AP) – The small Gulf Coast community of Mexico Beach was known as a slice of Old Florida.

Now it lies in splinters.

Hit head-on by Hurricane Michael, numerous homes in this resort town of about 1,190 people were shattered or ripped from their foundations. Boats were tossed like toys. The streets closest to the water looked as if a bomb had gone off.

What the 9-foot storm surge didn’t destroy, the 155 mph (250 kph) winds finished off.

Now, rescuers and residents are struggling to get into the ground-zero town to assess the damage and search for the hundreds of people believed to have stayed behind.

Mishelle McPherson and her ex-husband looked for the elderly mother of a friend on Thursday. The woman lived in a small cinderblock house about 150 yards (meters) from the Gulf and thought she would be OK.

Her home was reduced to crumbled blocks and pieces of floor tile.

“Aggy! Aggy!” McPherson yelled. The only sound that came back was the echo from the half-demolished building and the pounding of the surf.

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

As she walked down the street, McPherson pointed out pieces of what had been the woman’s house: “That’s the blade from her ceiling fan. That’s her floor tile.”

Drone footage of Mexico Beach showed a stunning landscape of devastation. Few structures were unscathed.

John Humphress, a storm chaser and drone pilot, arrived around 5 p.m. Wednesday, a few hours after Michael slammed into the coastline. He had one word to describe what he saw: “apocalyptic.” […]

As Republican Sen. Marco Rubio tweeted: “Mexico Beach is an old old #Florida town. It’s charm is that it feels like a trip back in time to a place unspoiled by development. I was told this morning that is is ‘gone.’” [more]

‘Apocalyptic:’ 1 Florida town demolished by Michael

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