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Hurricane Michael leaves ‘unimaginable destruction’

Hurricane Michael leaves ‘unimaginable destruction’

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Media captionAerial footage shows the destruction in Mexico City, Florida

Hurricane Michael left “unimaginable destruction” as it ploughed into coastal areas of Florida, the state’s governor, Rick Scott says.

“So many lives have been changed forever,” he said. “So many families have lost everything.”

The worst hit areas of Florida’s northwest coast saw houses ripped from their foundations, trees felled, and power lines strewn across streets.

Hurricane Michael struck on Wednesday with winds of 155mph (250km/h).

It weakened to a storm as it moved inland towards the north-east, but at least six people have died, most of them in Florida.

More than 370,000 people in Florida were ordered to evacuate but officials believe many ignored the warning.

Governor Scott said the US Coast Guard carried out 10 missions overnight, saving at least 27 people.

Which areas are worst affected?

Michael ploughed into Florida’s Panhandle coast near the town of Mexico Beach at 14:00 (18:00 GMT) on Wednesday, one of the strongest storms to ever hit the US mainland.

Ranked four on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale and with a storm surge of 9ft (2.7m), it lifted homes from their foundations and heavily damaged others in districts closest to the sea in Mexico Beach, CNN helicopter footage showed.

Twenty survivors were found in the town overnight, AP reports, but 285 had refused to obey warnings to evacuate.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption A boat tossed onshore in Mexico Beach

Head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Brock Long, called Mexico Beach “ground zero” due to the damage.

Trees were downed in Panama City, northwest of Mexico Beach, buildings flattened, boats and electrical cables scattered.

Apalachicola, with 2,300 residents, was also badly affected, the mayor reporting that downed cables were making it difficult to get through the town.

Debris and floodwater are also making some of the worst-hit areas difficult to reach.

Governor Scott urged residents not to return until the authorities “make sure things are safe”, given the danger from power lines and other debris.

Who are the victims?

Six deaths have been confirmed – four in Florida, one in Georgia and one in North Carolina.

Florida officials say one man died when he was crushed in an incident involving a tree in Gadsden County.

In Seminole County, Georgia, a metal car-shelter lifted by a gust of wind hit a mobile home, killing a girl of 11.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Residents of Mexico Beach have returned to find homes heavily damaged

Travis Brooks, director of Seminole County’s emergency management agency, told ABC News there was “complete and total devastation”.

Michael earlier reportedly killed at least 13 people as it passed through Central America: six in Honduras, four in Nicaragua and three in El Salvador.

Winds have knocked out power to more than 900,000 homes and businesses across Florida, Alabama, the Carolinas and Georgia.

Around 6,000 are thought to have sought refuge in official shelters, mainly in Florida.

What is the storm doing now?

With reduced winds of 50mph, according to the National Hurricane Center (NHC), Michael has moved north-east crossing Georgia and is closing in on Greensboro, North Carolina.

The NHC warned that communities in north-west Florida and North Carolina faced the threat of life-threatening flooding as rising water moved inland from the coast.

The Carolinas are still recovering from the floods of Hurricane Florence.

States of emergency have been declared in all or parts of Florida, Alabama, Georgia and North Carolina.

Hurricanes

A guide to the world’s deadliest storms

Hurricanes are violent storms that can bring devastation to coastal areas, threatening lives, homes and businesses.

Hurricanes develop from thunderstorms, fuelled by warm, moist air as they cross sub-tropical waters.
Warm air rises into the storm.

Air swirls in to fill the low pressure in the storm, sucking air in and upwards, reinforcing the low pressure.

The storm rotates due to the spin of the earth and energy from the warm ocean increases wind speeds as it builds.

When winds reach 119km/h (74mph), it is known as a hurricane – in the Atlantic and Eastern Pacific – or a typhoon in the Western Pacific.

“Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face. Well, we’re about to get punched in the face.”
Florida Mayor Bob Buckhorn, ahead of Hurricane Irma (2017)

The central eye of calmer weather is surrounded by a wall of rainstorms.
This eyewall has the fastest winds below it and violent currents of air rising through it.

A mound of water piles up below the eye which is unleashed as the storm reaches land.
These storm surges can cause more damage from flooding than the winds.

“Urgent warning about the rapid rise of water on the SW FL coast with the passage of #Irma’s eye. MOVE AWAY FROM THE WATER!”
Tweet from the National Hurricane Center

The size of hurricanes is mainly measured by the Saffir-Simpson scale – other scales are used in Asia Pacific and Australia.

Winds 119-153km/h
Some minor flooding, little structural damage.
Storm surge +1.2m-1.5m

Winds 154-177km/h
Roofs and trees could be damaged.
Storm surge +1.8m-2.4m

Winds 178-208km/h
Houses suffer damage, severe flooding
Storm surge +2.7m-3.7m

Hurricane Sandy (2012) caused $71bn damage in the Caribbean and New York

Winds 209-251km/h
Some roofs destroyed and major structural damage to houses.
Storm surge +4m-5.5m

Hurricane Ike (2008) hit Caribbean islands and Louisiana and was blamed for at least 195 deaths

Winds 252km/h+
Serious damage to buildings, severe flooding further inland.
Storm surge +5.5m

Hurricane Irma (2017) caused devastation in Caribbean islands, leaving thousands homeless

“For everyone thinking they can ride this storm out, I have news for you: that will be one of the biggest mistakes you can make in your life.”
Mayor of New Orleans Ray Nagin ahead of Hurricane Gustav, 2008

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