Hurricane leaves Florida's Mexico Beach in shreds

Clark Diaz
October 14, 2018

The US national guard has reached the town, dubbed "ground zero", and found 20 people who survived a direct hit from Michael.

CNN's 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.

"Blue skies, right in the eye", marveled Melendez.

As of Thursday evening, more than 370,000 customers were without power in Florida and 202,000 customers in Virginia were in the dark.

The storm is weakening - but still packs enough of a punch to cause more disaster as it roars through North and SC. It pushed a wall of seawater inland, causing widespread flooding. About 3,500 Florida National Guard troops were deployed to assist with evacuations and storm recovery, along with more than 1,000 search-and-rescue personnel, Florida Governor Rick Scott said.

Nearby Panama City Beach experienced similar damage along with other communities along the shore of the Gulf of Mexico.

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State officials said Mexico Beach was under mandatory evacuation orders but some residents chose to stay and try to ride out the storm. But with cellphone service out across vast swaths of the Florida Panhandle, officials said it is possible that some of those unaccounted for are safe and just haven't been able to contact friends or family to let them know.

With winds surging to 155 miles per hour (250 kph), Michael wreaked havoc on the Florida Panhandle, leaving a devastating trail of destruction along the Gulf coast before it was downgraded to a tropical storm in the evening as it moved further inland.

Entire blocks of homes near the beach were washed away, leaving nothing but concrete slabs in the sand.

Hurricane Michael also cut power to more than 200,000 people in the Florida Panhandle, including many who may not get it back for weeks.

The category four storm - the second-highest on the Saffir-Simpson hurricane intensity scale - made landfall near Mexico Beach in Florida and was just shy of a rare category five when it came ashore.

Jyotsana Patel picks up debris in her home damaged by Hurricane Michael in Parker, Fla., on October 11, 2018. Though most homes were still standing, no property was left undamaged.

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Early Thursday morning, several Florida counties that escaped the storm began sending work crews and heavy trucks to help clear roads and restore power.

About 1.5 million homes and businesses were without power from Florida to Virginia on Friday, according to utility companies.

The base was evacuated ahead of the hurricane and the costly fighter planes were flown to other installations out of the path of the storm.

"PDA was in communication with the presbyteries that were projected to be in the path of Hurricane Michael", said Jim Kirk, associate for US disaster response.

Michael killed at least six people - including a man who died when a tree toppled onto his house in Florida and a girl who died when debris fell into a home in Georgia, officials and local media said.

Briefing President Donald Trump at the White House, Federal Emergency Management Agency chief Brock Long said Michael was the most intense hurricane to strike the Florida Panhandle since record keeping began in 1851.

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Closer to the ocean, squares of concrete served as the only evidence that houses had stood there just the day before. Almost 950,000 homes and businesses were without power in Florida, Alabama, the Carolinas and Georgia on Thursday.

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