By JAY REEVES and BRENDAN FARRINGTON, Associated Press
PANAMA CITY, Fla.( AP) — The desolation incurred by Hurricane Michael came into focus Thursday with rows upon rows of residences discovered smashed to pieces, and save crews began making their course into the stricken areas in hopes of accounting for hundreds of people who may have defied evacuation orders.
At least two fatalities were blamed on Michael, the stronger typhoon to make the continental U.S. in over 50 times, and it wasn’t done yet: Though reduced to a tropical storm, it delivered flash flooding to North Carolina and Virginia, soaking areas still recovering from Hurricane Florence.
Under a perfectly clear blue sky, families living along the Florida Panhandle emerged tentatively from darkened shelters and hotels to a perilous landscape of shattered homes and shopping center, beeping security dismays, weeping sirens and poising 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 degree of Michael’s fury was only slowly be seen clearly, with some of the hardest-hit areas difficult to reach because of roads blocked by debris or water. An 80 -mile stretch of Interstate 10, the main east-west road 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 cyclone upsurge of 9 paws( 2.7 meters ). Video from a drone divulged widespread devastation across the town of about 1,000 people.
Entire cubes of residences near the beach were obliterated, reduced to nothing but concrete slab in the sand. Rows and rows of other residences were was transformed into pilings of splintered lumber or were crumpled and slumped at odd slants. Entire roofs were torn away and declined onto a street. Boats were tossed ashore like toys.
A National Guard team got into Mexico Beach and find 20 survivors overnight, and more crews were pushing into the field in the morning, with the destinies of many occupants unknown, powers said. State officials said 285 people in Mexico Beach had refused to leave ahead of the hurricane despite a mandatory evacuation order.
Mishelle McPherson and her ex-husband scoured for the elderly mother of a pal. The wife lived in a small cinderblock house about 150 gardens from the Gulf and saw she would be OK.
Her home was reduced to crumbled cinderblocks and fragments of flooring tile.
“Aggy! Aggy! ” McPherson screamed. The only sound that came back was the echo from the half-demolished structure and the pounding of the surf.
“Do you think her body would be here? Do you think it would have swum away? ” she asked.
As she marched down the street, McPherson point out here that pieces of what had been the woman’s house: “That’s the blade from her ceiling fan. That’s her flooring tile.”
As millions of National Guard troops, law enforcement officers and medical squads fanned out, the governor pleaded with people in the devastated areas to stay away for now because of fallen trees, power cable and other debris.
“I know you just want to go home. You want to check on things and begin the convalescence process, ” Scott said. But “we have to make sure things are safe.”
Over 900,000 homes and firms in Florida, Alabama, Georgia and the Carolinas were without power.
The Coast Guard said it rescued at least 27 people before and after the typhoon came ashore, predominantly from residences along the Florida coastline, and scoured for more victims.
Among those introduced into security were nine people rescued by helicopter from a bathroom of their home in Panama City, another one of the hardest-hit places, after their roof collapsed, Petty Officer 3rd Class Ronald Hodges said.
In Panama City, most dwellings were still standing, but no belonging was left undamaged. Downed power cable lay nearly everywhere. Roofs had been peeled off and carried away. Aluminum siding was shredded to ribbons. Dwellings were split open by fallen trees.
Hundreds of cars had interrupted windows. Twisted street signs lay on the floor. Pine trees were stripped and snapped off about 20 paws high.
The hurricane likewise damaged hospitals and nursing home in the Panama City area, and officials worked to evacuate hundreds of patients. The shattering at Bay Medical Sacred Heart included blown-out windows, a cracked exterior wall and a roof collapse in a upkeep house. No patients were hurt, the hospital said.
The state mental hospital in Chattahoochee, which has a area for the criminally insane, was cut off by property, and food and furnishes were being hovered in, powers 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 plummeted it on her dwelling. One of the carport’s legs punctured the roof and made her in the head.
As of 2 p.m. EDT, Michael was centered about 25 miles( 40 kilometers) south of Greensboro, North Carolina, with gales of 50 mph (8 5 kph ). It was moving northeast at 23 mph( 37 kph ).
Forecasters said it could decline up to 7 inches( 18 centimeters) of rain over the Carolinas and Virginia before pushing out to sea Thursday evening. In North Carolina’s mountains, motorists had to be rescued from automobiles trapped by high water.
“For North Carolina, Michael isn’t even worse as Florence, but it adds unwelcome insult to injury, so we must be on alert, ” Gov. Roy Cooper said.
More than 375,000 people up and down the Gulf Coast were ordered or urged to clear out as Michael closed in. But it moved fast and intensified speedily, and emergency authorities lamented that many people ignored the warnings.
“Why people didn’t evacuate is something “were supposed” studying, ” said Craig Fugate, former director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and a former Florida state emergency management chief. “Is there more the government can do? But we ask that every time.”
Based on its internal barometric pressure, Michael was the third most powerful typhoon to hit the U.S. mainland, behind the unnamed Labor Day storm of 1935 and Camille in 1969. Based on gust accelerate, it was the fourth-strongest, behind the Labor Day storm( 184 mph, or 296 kph ), Camille and Andrew in 1992.
Associated Press novelists Tamara Lush in St. Petersburg, Florida; Gary Fineout in Tallahassee, Florida; Terry Spencer in Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Jennifer Kay and Freida Frisaro in Miami; Brendan Farrington in St. Marks, Florida; Russ Bynum in Keaton Beach, Florida; Jonathan Drew in Raleigh, North Carolina, and Seth Borenstein in Kensington, Maryland, contributed to this story.
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