Deadly Hurricane Michael devastates Florida Panhandle before moving inland

Joe Raedle  Getty Images Waves crash along a pier from hurricane Michael Oct. 10 2018 in Panama City Beach Fla

But upon landfall Wednesday afternoon, just north of Mexico Beach, the storm was a Category 4 with maximum sustained winds reaching 155 miles per hour and a storm surge of 9 feet.

The storm, which in less than two days grew from a tropical storm to a Category 4 hurricane on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale, tore apart entire neighborhoods in the Panhandle, reducing homes to naked concrete foundations or piles of wood and siding.

The storm made landfall near Mexico Beach just before 1 p.m. with a storm surge that was recorded at 8 feet in one place along the Panhandle coast.

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. Florida officials said they planned to use the people on the search and rescue teams to now help pass out food and water to people in severely damaged communities.

"We are catching some hell", Timothy Thomas, who rode out the storm with his wife in their home in Panama City Beach, Florida, told the Associated Press news agency.

An 11-year-old girl killed Wednesday afternoon when Hurricane Michael hit southwest Georgia has been identified by authorities.

Later, a child was reportedly killed in Seminole County, Ga., due to the storm, CNN, WALB and CBS reported.

The devastation inflicted by Hurricane Michael came into focus yesterday with rows upon rows of homes found smashed to pieces, and search-and-rescue crews struggled to reach the stricken areas in hopes of accounting for hundreds of people who defied evacuation orders.

In Wakulla County, the sheriff's office made a list of people who chose to ride out the storm and will begin the process of checking on them Thursday, sheriff's captain Chris Savary said.

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.

And, impressively, Michael's top sustained winds are growing again, to near 65 miles per hour (100 kph) at 5 a.m., with forecasters saying it will grow stronger still.

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Six Florida counties remain under curfews, as work crews try to push debris off of roads so utility and emergency crews can start to fix the damage and reach people who need help. They were supposed to return home Thursday morning.

Her brother, she said, lost a condo along the beach, and the other nearby units were also destroyed.

Gulf Power, which provides electricity to northwest Florida, said it had about 112,000 customers without power.

Michael crossed Georgia with heavy winds overnight and, now a tropical storm, is headed to the Carolinas. It includes the privately insured wind and storm surge damage to residential, commercial and industrial properties and automobiles.

Hurricane Michael's pounding waves and winds obliterated row after row of beachfront homes at ground zero on the Florida Panhandle when the epic Category 4 hurricane slammed ashore at midweek.

Winds up to 155mph uprooted trees and brought down power lines - with federal officials warning it may be several weeks before utilities are restored to some areas.

Michael is now dropping rain along the Mid-Atlantic and New England coasts as it moves eastward over the ocean, with sustained winds that have strengthened to 65 miles per hour.

Her biggest worry: finding her missing one-year-old Siamese cat, Molly. The lead-gray water was so high that roofs were about all that could be seen of many homes.

"You can't drive a auto anywhere, you can't do anything because it's littered with houses, pieces of houses", said Patricia Mulligan, who rode out the storm with her family in a condo in Mexico Beach, a town of mom-and-pop shops and sportfishing businesses about 35 miles southeast of Panama City. Sweet died after a tree fell on a home near Greensboro.

While we might not get more storms in a warmer climate, most studies show storms will get stronger and produce more rain.

"You can't make sense of it, but what you do is you take the situation, and what we have to make certain that our kids know is that we must be resilient", Smith said.

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