Hurricane Michael devastates Florida

Nature and Environment

Michael slams Florida Panhandle

The storm blew ashore early Wednesday afternoon near Florida's Mexico Beach as a Category 4 hurricane. It was just short of being categorized as level 5. With winds surging to 155 mph (250 kph), Michael wreaked havoc on the Florida Panhandle, leaving a devastating trail of destruction along the Gulf coast before it was downgraded to a tropical storm in the evening as it moved further inland.

Nature and Environment

Cities devastated

Numerous buildings in Panama City were demolished, partially collapsed or without roofs amid deserted streets littered with debris, twisted, fallen tree trunks and dangling wires. About 3,500 Florida National Guard troops were deployed to assist with evacuations and storm recovery, along with more than 1,000 search-and-rescue personnel, Florida Governor Rick Scott said. One person has died so far.

Nature and Environment

Thousands evacuated

Some 375,000 people were ordered to evacuate their homes, but many residents found themselves trapped after they were caught unawares when the storm doubled in strength as it approached land. "It really started as a tropical storm, and then it went to Category 1, then it was Category 2 and before you know it, it was Category 4," said US Air Force General Terrence O'Shaughnessy.

Nature and Environment

Widespread power outages

More than 400,000 people in Florida, Georgia and Alabama were without power. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) chief Brock Long said many buildings were not built to withstand a storm above the strength of a Category 3 hurricane. Long said Michael was one of the most intense hurricanes to hit the area since 1851.

Nature and Environment

Storm heads for Carolinas

As Michael plows northward up the Atlantic seaboard, the governors of North and South Carolina urged residents to brace for more heavy rain and storm-force winds. Both states are still recovering from major flooding following Hurricane Florence less than a month ago.

Nature and Environment

Extent of damage unknown

Authorities said the full extent of devastation would not be known until after daybreak in Florida on Thursday. In the meantime, curfews were imposed across much of the region. Last year saw a slew of catastrophic storms batter the western Atlantic, including Irma, Maria and Harvey, which caused at least $125 billion (€108.2 billion) in damage when it flooded the Houston metropolitan area.

Hurricane Michael has ravaged Florida's northwest, also known as the Florida Panhandle. It is the most powerful hurricane to have ever hit the region.