Hurricane Michael slams into Florida, charges into Southeast

Gerald Herbert  APA woman checks on her vehicle as Hurricane Michael passes through in Panama City Beach Fla. Oct. 10 2018

Catastrophic scenes have emerged across the Florida Panhandle, where Michael left more than 350,000 without power and entire neighborhoods in ruins.

The storm will go down in history as the third strongest to hit the United States mainland in recorded history after making landfall Wednesday as a Category 4 colossus with sustained winds of 155 miles per hour - just 2 miles per hour short of iconic Category 5 status. It was a clear warning that the storm should be taken seriously.

Michael is the strongest hurricane to strike the Florida Panhandle on record and the strongest storm to make landfall in the continental US since Hurricane Andrew, which struck in 1992.

The rescue teams did what was described as a "hasty search" to look for either victims or survivors. The National Hurricane Centre warned of possible spinoff tornadoes and heavy rains in Alabama and Georgia, before the storm heads for SC, already soaked by Hurricane Florence in September. It was heading north-north-east at 22kmh with maximum sustained winds down to 240kmh, the hurricane centre said. This storm could also have some profound effects on how the sector thinks about (and models) loss potential from Gulf Coast hurricanes, as a result of the perhaps unexpected pre-landfall intensification and distance inland that hurricane force winds were recorded.

High winds led to the death of an 11-year-old girl in Seminole County, Georgia, EMA Director Travis Brooks told The Washington Post early Thursday morning.

The devastation inflicted by Hurricane Michael came into focus today with rows upon rows of homes found smashed to pieces, and rescue crews began making their way into the stricken areas in hopes of accounting for hundreds of people who may have stayed behind. At around midnight Thursday the hurricane was downgraded to a tropical storm after ripping through Florida and Southwest Georgia.

Uprooted trees, downed power poles and limited communications have greatly hindered first responders and families trying to reach residents in need.

Michael left a trail of destruction in its wake as it moved northeast out of Florida and into Georgia and the Carolinas, which already took a beating last month when Hurricane Florence roared into the area.

Megan McCall says her brother Jeff and his family were riding out the storm in the Panhandle. There are power lines everywhere. "I didn't expect all this", said Bill Manning, 63, a grocery clerk who fled his camper van in Panama City for safer quarters in a hotel, only to see the electricity there go out.

Across the bay in Panama City Beach, a resort city on the Gulf of Mexico known for its white-sand beach and amusement parks, winds of about 100 miles per hour furiously whipped the trees in the early afternoon and pulled apart homes.

A man died in Greensboro, northwest of Tallahassee, after a tree crashed down on his home late Wednesday afternoon, local law enforcement officials confirmed. Pine trees were stripped and snapped off about 20 feet high. Michael was the third most powerful hurricane to hit the USA mainland, based on barometric pressure.

More than 375,000 people up and down the Gulf Coast were ordered or urged to evacuate as Michael closed in. "Many counties are under a Tropical Storm Warning or Tropical Storm Watch". "This is obviously the worst", said Stephanie Palmer, a FEMA firefighter and rescuer from Coral Springs, Florida.

It also brought the dangers of a life-threatening storm surge.

As a result, it will likely be some weeks before a true level of exposure for insurance, reinsurance and ILS interests is understood, as is typical with most hurricane events. It's here where an 11-year-old girl was killed during the storm. "When the doors to the church were open she would want to be there", Radney said.

The Category 4 hurricane once had wind speeds of up to 155 miles per hour.

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