'Changed Forever': Florida Panhandle devastated by Michael

'Changed Forever': Florida Panhandle devastated by Michael

'Changed Forever': Florida Panhandle devastated by Michael

Search and rescue teams looked for bodies through a ruined landscape of smashed homes and piles of sand Friday, while more deaths were reported in Virginia, 600 miles from where Hurricane Michael made landfall. Michael flattened homes, plunged communities into darkness and ravaged whole neighborhoods.

Florida's Governor Rick Scott has declared a state emegency in 35 counties along the Panhandle and Florida's Big Bend regions - including the state capital Tallahassee. "And the damage left in its wake is still yet to be fully understood".

Michael is not a spent force.

Tropical storm-force winds extended as far as 275 miles from the center and flash flooding is still a risk for parts of the Carolinas and the southern mid-Atlantic.

Long urged communities such as Mexico Beach, where many homes were obliterated by 12 to 14 feet (3.7 to 4.3 metres) of storm surge, to rebuild to withstand future storms. "We will do everything we can to make sure the federal government does it's part", the senator tweeted. But its rapid intensification over the Gulf's warm waters hours before landfall and its fury inland caught many by surprise, CNN meteorologist Robert Shackelford said.

Hurricane Michael strengthened to a Category 2 storm with 100-mile-per-hour winds on Tuesday as Florida's governor warned it could bring "total devastation" to parts of the southern USA state.

Based on wind speed, it was the fourth-strongest, behind the Labor Day storm (184mph), Camille and Andrew in 1992.

Almost 1.5 million people throughout the Southeast woke up without power Friday, including more than a half-million in Virginia - mostly in the Richmond and Hampton Roads areas, according to Dominion Energy.

Damage to houses after Hurricane Florence was so bad it strained the Carolinas' housing markets.

"We need people in SC and North Carolina to remain vigilant and be careful".

U.S. emergency organisation The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) had scrambled teams ready to act in Florida, said FEMA spokesman Jeff Byard. Both states face extreme flooding risk and damaging winds before Michael exits into the Atlantic on Friday.

Aluminium siding was shredded and homes were split by fallen trees.

Another man was killed in Iredell County, North Carolina, north of Charlotte, when a tree fell on his vehicle, said Cooper, who blamed the incident on the storm. Officials didn't say whether anyone else was in the auto. Michael flooded homes, tore roofs off and sank boats.

"Oooooh wow, our new house", she said, her voice shaking.

In Pittsylvania County, Virginia, 45-year-old James King Jr. died after his auto was caught in a flash flood and he was swept away, state police said.

Diane Farris, 57, and her son walked to a high school-turned-shelter near their home in Panama City to find about 1,100 people crammed into a space meant for about half as many.

The U.S. Coast Guard had rescued about 40 people as of 6:30 p.m. EDT Thursday and assisted 232 others, including 142 nursing home patients, according to a news release.

Caldwell says there were five suspected tornadoes in the state, but they are still awaiting National Weather Service confirmation.

Now, rescuers and residents are struggling to get into the ground-zero town to assess the damage and search for the hundreds of people believed to have stayed behind.

Vance Beu, 29, was staying with his mother at her home at Spring Gate Apartments, a complex of single-story wood-frame buildings. An 80-mile stretch of Interstate 10, the main east-west route along the Panhandle, is still closed because of debris.

The president told reporters that those affected by the storm were in his prayers, and he said the administration "will not rest or waver" until recovery was complete. "We thought the windows were going to break at any time", Beu said. "It went through like a bullet, but it was a devastating bullet", Trump said.

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