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11 October 2018, 04:14 | Dale Webster
People wait for breakfast as they and others seek safety in a shelter as Hurricane Michael approaches Panama City Florida
Many homes were ripped apart or washed away altogether in Mexico Beach, a town of 1,000 where the hurricanemade landfall and the storm surge pushed lead-grey water up to the rooftops.
The winds were so strong they brought down a billboard in Florida's Panama City, tore down a Texaco gas pumping station canopy in Inlet Beach, and the storm surge completely knocked a house of its foundations in Mexico Beach.
It has now weakened to a tropical storm over south-central Georgia.
The third-most powerful hurricane to hit the USA mainland in recorded history left a wide path of destruction, destroying homes and shopping centres and felling trees that killed at least two people in Florida and Georgia. Hurricane-force winds extended up to 45 miles from its center.
Hurricane Michael is predicted to travel northeast across the southern USA, reaching the Atlantic Ocean again on tomorrow night (Oct. 11).
About 162,000 homes and business customers were already without power around mid-afternoon in Florida, Georgia and Alabama, utility companies said.
The Carolinas are still recovering from Hurricane Florence, which left dozens dead and is estimated to have caused billions of dollars in damage last month. "It is most likely that the very warm water in the Gulf.is likely contributing to the intensity and the intensification that we have seen", Jim Kossin, an atmospheric scientist with the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration toldReuters.
Sally Crown rode out Michael on the Florida Panhandle thinking at first that the worst damage was the many trees downed in her yard.
Bill Manning, a 63-year-old supermarket employee, fled his camper van in Panama City for safer quarters in a hotel only to see the electricity there go out.
"My God, it's scary".
In the case of Michael the damage will be mainly from wind rather than rain.
Michael, located about 20 miles (30 kilometers) southwest of Albany, Georgia and packing maximum sustained winds of 90 miles per hour (150 km/h), is forecast to become post-tropical cyclone on Friday, the Miami-based weather forecaster said.
After being battered for almost 3 hours by strong winds and heavy rains, roads in Panama City were virtually impassable and trees, satellite dishes and traffic lights lay in the streets.
Brock Long, head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), said early evacuation efforts in the area were slow.
He was one of about 2,500 of the town's 3,500 residents who ended up staying put, many of them caught off guard by the storm's rapid escalation as it approached.
More than 375,000 people up and down the Gulf Coast were urged to evacuate as Michael closed in. Emergency managers say they don't know how many left the area, but there were about 6000 people in 80 shelters in five states, including almost 1200 who are still in shelters following Hurricane Florence.
Hurricane center Director Ken Graham said on Facebook that Michael would be the worst storm in recorded history to hit the Panhandle.
"This happened so quickly, we weren't exactly prepared", he said.
President Donald Trump declared a state of emergency for all of Florida, freeing up federal assistance to supplement state and local disaster responses.
The Pentagon positioned more than 2,200 active-duty military personnel, along with helicopters, high-water vehicles and swift-water boats.
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