FEMA focusing on search and rescue after Michael passes through

S Hurricane Michael drenches Florida Panhandle

S Hurricane Michael drenches Florida Panhandle

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 neighbourhoods in the Panhandle, reducing homes to naked concrete foundations or piles of wood and siding.

Almost 850,000 homes and businesses were without power in Florida, Alabama, the Carolinas and Georgia on Thursday.

Interstate 10 - a major east-west thoroughfare - was shut down for eighty miles in both directions due to debris from the storm.

By the time the eye of the storm had come ashore, storm surge and sustained wind speeds of 155 miles per hour had already torn apart property. "We're going to be out of running water pretty shortly, I'm sure", she said. Early Thursday morning, several Florida counties that escaped the storm began sending work crews and heavy trucks to help clear roads and restore power.

Hurricane Michael's powerful winds ripped roofs from buildings - including a Panama City High school gym where some teachers and their families had taken shelter.

When Hurricane Michael struck the Florida Panhandle it left devastation in its wake.

"We are ready to open up a temporary morgue if necessary, but it doesn't look like that's going to be needed so that's an wonderful thing", said Harris, who was working at the State Emergency Operations Center.

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Bay County officials previously said 56 people had chosen to stay in their homes in Mexico Beach and that search and rescue teams were trying to account for those people.

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

"We had furniture in our house that wasn't even ours", Scott Boutwell said, explaining that when he returned to his home Thursday the only belongings he could find was a briefcase. "This hurricane was an absolute monster". He says the number of rescues remains fluid and there were no reports of deaths so far from the Coast Guard's missions. Twisted street signs lay on the ground. But it moved fast and intensified quickly, and emergency authorities lamented that many people ignored the warnings. Trees, stripped of their leaves, stood at odd angles, giving the impression of an atomic blast. Michael's peak winds at landfall were just behind the three Category 5 storms that have made landfall since 1900 - Labor Day (1935), Camille (1969), and Andrew (1992). He said he thinks she was home when Michael hit.

Some had no idea that scenes from all across Panama City and Panama City Beach had been playing out on national news and The Weather Channel all day Wednesday and Thursday. Authorities said falling trees killed a man outside Tallahassee, Florida, and an 11-year-old girl in southwest Georgia. The damage at Bay Medical Sacred Heart included blown-out windows, a cracked exterior wall and a roof collapse in a maintenance building.

Allan was sitting in her recliner in her home Wednesday morning when a ceiling tile fell and hit her on the leg. The mental hospital has a section that houses the criminally insane, but they say the facility itself has not been breached.

After devastating coastal communities in the Florida Panhandle, the remnants of the storm, now downgraded to a post-tropical cyclone, killed five people as it passed through the U.S. state of Virginia.

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