February 19, 2019

Hurricane Apocalypse in Florida: Lives Lost, Homes Gone, American Catastrophy

13 October 2018, 06:28 | Dale Webster

Waffle Houses stay open 24/7- but 18 restaurants in Florida have closed because of how severe Hurricane Michael

Famous for staying open during natural disasters Waffle House closes 21 restaurants

Michael, a Category-4 storm at the time, smashed into Florida's northwest coast near the small town of Mexico Beach on Wednesday with screeching 250kph winds, pushing a wall of seawater inland.

Monster Hurricane Michael has now moved out into the Atlantic, but it left behind devastation of catastrophic proportions. The storm tore entire neighbourhoods apart, reducing homes and businesses to piles of wood.

No wind, nearly no-one on the street, just the beating hot Sun and the debris: debris everywhere, tossed and scattered - the calling card of a monstrous storm.

Ray Jadallah, from the Miami-Dade County Florida Task Force 1, has spent the last two days - 20 hours a day - digging through debris in Mexico Beach.

FEMA Administrator Brock Long warned on Friday that the death toll will likely climb. "That is some good news, but for those half-million people that don't have power, we understand the frustration and we're doing everything we can".

As one of the strongest hurricanes ever to make US landfall, Hurricane Michael wrecked extensive damage, but the theme emerging Thursday was that a combination of deft forecasting, quick emergency response, and a fortuitous path prevented the disaster from being much worse.

"I made a decision to stay because my family chose to evacuate, but the pets had to stay here", Panama City resident John Pandullo said. Based on wind speed, it was the fourth-strongest, behind the Labor Day storm 296km/h, Camille and Andrew in 1992. - Homes near the coast are destroyed. About 375,000 people were under mandatory and voluntary evacuation orders, although not all complied.

"We have shelters open (and) as long as there's a need they're going to stay open", he said. Boats were tossed ashore like toys.

Some fear the toll can only rise as rescue teams reach isolated areas and work through storm debris.

He was scheduled to visit both Mexico Beach and Marianna with Florida National Guard troops on Friday, in addition to getting an aerial view of the damage to Gulf and Jackson counties.

"I've never seen anything like this craziness", said Tamara's café owner Danny Itzkovitz, 54, as he was busy grilling burgers.

Of the five deaths in Virginia, four were from drowning, according to member station WVTF. "But, holy smokes, this one kicked our butt". A year ago, the school welcomed students and families displaced by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. State officials said about 565,000 electricity customers lost power at the storm's peak. "So I wanted to protect them or be there for them in case something like this happened - and it did". "So far, everybody seems to be very safe".

In one community, Panama City, most homes were still standing, but no property was left undamaged. Nearly 1.2 million homes and businesses were without power Thursday because of the storm. It was the strongest storm to hit the continental United States since Hurricane Andrew in 1992, and left extensive damage in Panama City, where skies were still overcast hours after the gusty winds left town.

It weakened overnight to a tropical storm.

It was toppling trees and bringing life-threatening flash flooding to areas of Georgia and Virginia, which are still recovering from Hurricane Florence, as it marched northeast.

Michael also disrupted energy operations in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico as it approached land, cutting crude oil production by more than 40 percent and natural gas output by almost one-third as offshore platforms were evacuated.

Florida Governor Rick Scott told the Weather Channel the damage from Panama City down to Mexico Beach was "way worse than anybody ever anticipated".

As of early on Saturday, state officials were reporting that at least 18 have been killed in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia.

Hurricane Michael underwent three periods of rapid intensification, said Haiyan Jiang, associate professor of meteorology at Florida International University.

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