Hurricane Michael toll expected to rise

Hurricane Michael toll expected to rise

Hurricane Michael toll expected to rise

When their house filled with surging ocean water, they fled upstairs. Roofs and awnings are peeled from buildings, pieces of homes are scattered amid snapped trees and downed power lines, chunks of beaches are washed away.

Mr Scott is also keen to avoid problems caused by Hurricane Irma just over a year ago when a lack of workers left many local shelters under-staffed.

Michael hit the Florida panhandle as a Category 4 hurricane Wednesday afternoon, with 155 miles per hour winds and heavy rain. And while forecasters said Michael was gradually losing its tropical traits, it was a new chapter would begin as an extratropical storm predicted to intensify with gale force winds once it starts cross out into the Atlantic.

In Cuba, it dropped more than 10 inches (27 centimetres) of rain in places, flooding fields, damaging roads, knocking out power and destroying some homes in the western province of Pinar del Rio. Charlotte, North Carolina's largest city, was expecting as much as six inches of rain and wind gusts exceeding 30 miles per hour. Similar scenes played out in parts of Virginia as the storm raced seaward.

It devastated Florida's Panhandle region, leaving much of the area in ruins.

Even before landfall, the hurricane disrupted energy operations in the Gulf, cutting crude oil production by more than 40 percent and natural gas output by almost one-third as offshore platforms were evacuated before the storm hit.

"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 sport-fishing businesses about 56km southeast of Panama City. Numerous buildings in Panama City were demolished or left without roofs amid deserted streets littered with debris, twisted, fallen tree trunks and dangling wires. Hundreds of cars had broken windows, many turned askew by the wind.

The hurricane damaged hospitals and nursing homes in Panama City, and officials worked to evacuate hundreds of patients.

Many flights were canceled in the hurricane zone, and Amtrak changed some train schedules to protect passengers and employees.

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Gov. Rick Scott said the Panhandle woke up to "unimaginable destruction".

An insurance company that produces models for catastrophes estimated the damage at $8 billion.

As residents returned to their homes and businesses to survey the damage Thursday morning, photojournalists took to helicopters to document the damage from above. It doesn't include losses covered by the National Flood Insurance Program. Those evacuations stretched across 22 counties from the Florida Panhandle down into north central Florida.

A man was killed by a tree falling on a Florida home and an 11-year-old girl died after a tree came down on a house in south-west Georgia. A driver in North Carolina was killed when a tree fell on his auto.

The full extent of Michael's fury was only slowly becoming clear, with some of the hardest-hit areas difficult to reach because of roads blocked by debris or water.

Franklin County Sheriff A.J. Smith near the vulnerable coast said his deputies had gone door to door in some places urging people to evacuate. But emergency authorities lamented that many people ignored the warnings.

On the exposed coast of Florida's Big Bend, most of the waterfront homes in Keaton Beach stood vacant amid fears of a life-threatening storm surge in an area that hadn't seen a potentially catastrophic major hurricane in decades.

ABC News meteorologist Ginger Zee saw a devastating storm surge in Mexico Beach, Florida, topple a house from its foundation.

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