Now a Tropical Storm, Michael Leaves Devastation in Florida

Mindy Sparks
October 12, 2018

When the steep-walled eye of Hurricane Michael passed over Stefan Melendez Wednesday afternoon, he stepped into the temporarily tranquil Florida environment and saw blue skies above. "This is obviously the worst", said Stephanie Palmer, a FEMA firefighter and rescuer from Coral Springs, Florida.

Some of the most devastating pictures came from the tiny city of Mexico Beach - southeast of Panama City. Patterson estimated 1,000 homes were completely or partially destroyed in his town of 3,500 people. "But first we need your help, your patience and your understanding that before you return we have to make sure things are safe".

"It's hard to convey in words the scale of the catastrophe in Panama City". A year ago, the school welcomed students and families displaced by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.

"I have had employees going to the communities where our kids live, going door to door and checking", said Principal Britt Smith by phone.

They turned out to be correct, as warm ocean waters and a lack of wind shear - which are powerful opposing winds that can topple hurricanes - set the stage for the storm's intensification.

Michael was downgraded to a Tropical Storm on Thursday as it took its drenching rains to Georgia and the Carolinas.

All non-essential travel to and from the area, also known as Florida's Panhandle, has been suspended, but the busy cruise port of Tampa 250 miles to the south was able to breathe a sigh of relief as it largely avoided the worst effects of the storm.

The third-most powerful hurricane to hit the US mainland in recorded history left a wide path of destruction across Florida and Georgia, destroying homes and shopping centres and knocking down trees, killing at least two people. About 359,000 customers in Florida were in the dark early Thursday, according to the state's emergency management agency.

Thousands of home have been destroyed from Panama City to Mexico Beach along the Panhandle.

More than 900,000 homes and businesses in Florida, Alabama, Georgia and the Carolinas were without power.

Mr Long said several hospitals in the Panhandle were hit by the hurricane and patients had to be evacuated.

The number of people in emergency shelters was expected to swell to 20,000 across five states by Friday, said Brad Kieserman of the American Red Cross.

There was widespread damage in Panama City, Fla., just west of where the centre of Michael's eye hit the shore.

Michael also disrupted energy operations in the US 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.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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