Hurricane Michael ravages rows of Florida beach homes

Hurricane Michael ravages rows of Florida beach homes

Hurricane Michael ravages rows of Florida beach homes

Boats were tossed like toys.

Powerful Hurricane Michael slammed into the Florida Panhandle with terrifying winds of 155 miles per hour Wednesday, splintering homes and submerging neighbourhoods before continuing its destructive march inland across the Southeast.

Michael slammed North Florida with 155 miles per hour winds — just shy of Category 5 strength — sent up to 10 feet of storm surge into coastal areas and damaged and demolished homes and businesses across the Panhandle.

While forecasters said Michael was gradually losing its tropical traits, a new chapter would begin as an extra-tropical storm, predicted to intensify with gale force winds once it starts cross out into the Atlantic.

In North Carolina's mountains, motorists had to be rescued from cars trapped by high water.

A psychiatric hospital in Florida remains isolated after downed trees blocked roads around Chattahoochee, Florida, and a tree caused a water line to break.

North Carolina was already flood-sensitive with creeks and rivers at a high stage after Hurricane Florence hit there several weeks ago. Similar scenes played out in parts of Virginia as the storm raced seawards.

Five people were killed in Florida and a man died in a storm-related traffic accident in North Carolina on Thursday.

Among those helping are about 450 Florida Highway Patrol officers, many of whom drove through the night to the Panhandle to help with rescues. Families living along the Panhandle are now faced with a struggle to survive in a perilous landscape of shattered homes and shopping centers, the storm debris spread far and wide.

Bob Tenbrunson, a Mexico Beach retiree, rode out the storm at his daughter's house in nearby Panama City and returned to survey the damage to his home. Twisted street signs lay on the ground. Roofs were peeled off and homes split open by fallen trees.

Hundreds of residents were rescued on Thursday from cars, apartments and homes flooded by rushing water. Patients were moved out of hurricane-damaged hospitals and nursing homes.

'Worst on record': Hurricane Michael slams Florida with winds up to 250kmh
A water-level station in Apalachicola, close to where Michael came ashore, reported a surge of almost 8 feet (2.5 meters). It is the fourth strongest on record, and nothing this ferocious has ever hit the Panhandle.

"Hope is that even if the storm does come, even if I lose my auto, my house, my family, even if I lose my life, blessed be God", he said.

Brad Rippey, a meteorologist for the U.S. Agriculture Department, said Michael severely damaged cotton, timber, pecan and peanut crops, causing estimated liabilities as high as $1.9 billion and affecting up to 3.7 million crop acres (1.5 million hectares).

The US death toll has risen to at least 11 - including five in Virginia and four in Florida - and it's expected to climb. A driver in North Carolina was killed when a tree fell on his vehicle.

Michael is forecast to hit the Florida coast on Wednesday before moving over Alabama, Georgia and the Carolinas on Wednesday night and Thursday.

The number of dead was expected to rise, but authorities scrapped plans for setting up a temporary morgue, indicating they had yet to see signs of mass casualties from the most powerful hurricane to hit the continental almost 50 years.

- At least 11 deaths have been blamed on Michael, the most powerful hurricane to hit the continental over 50 years.

Others said they remained because road closures and police checkpoints make it very hard to get back home.

- Storm riders: Roughly 375,000 people in Florida warned to evacuate; many refused, including 285 people in Mexico Beach where Michael made landfall. The task ahead: finding and hopefully safely accounting for all those who stayed behind.

Phone service to the most damaged areas was down, leaving survivors no way to contact anxious relatives, so a CNN reporter on the air read off several names of residents he had spoken with, to let concerned parties know they were safe.

Mishelle McPherson and her ex-husband searched for the elderly mother of a friend. The worst damage - she thought - was in her yard.

"I can't think anymore because I just don't know what to do", she told CNN's Gary Tuchman, breaking down in tears.

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