Florida town almost wiped off the map by Hurricane Michael

Clay Curtis
October 14, 2018

Marchetti said his volunteer search teams, consisting mostly of off-duty police officers and firefighters, had rescued or accounted for 345 others previously reported to CrowdSource Rescue.

Hurricane Michael made landfall on Wednesday as a Category 4 on the five-step Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale, near the small panhandle town of Mexico beach with terrifying winds of up to 155 miles per hour (250 km per hour), pushing the sea water inland and causing widespread flooding.

So far, counties along the affected northwest Florida coast have reported no deaths related to the storm.

Michael was one of the most powerful hurricanes to ever make landfall in the USA, and the Gulf Coast community of Mexico Beach, which housed about 1,000 people, was in its bullseye.

"Mexico Beach needs your prayers", Albrecht said of the town of about 1,200 people. At least one person - an elderly man - has been found dead there, and it's unclear how many are missing.

"We extend our heartfelt sympathy to the loved ones and friends of those killed", Cooper said in a statement.

"We still haven't gotten into some of the hardest-hit areas", said Brock Long, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) on Friday, noting that he expects to see the number of people killed climb.

Across the ravaged region, officials set up distribution centres to hand out food and water to victims.

Some residents with destroyed or damaged homes counted themselves lucky to have survived. Video shot by CNN from a helicopter showed homes closest to the water in Mexico Beach had lost all but their foundations.

FEMA's Long urged communities such as Mexico Beach, where many homes were pulverized by 12 to 14 feet (3.7 to 4.3 meters) of storm surge, to rebuild to withstand future storms.

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According to the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, human-caused greenhouse gases in the atmosphere create an energy imbalance, with more than 90% of remaining heat trapped by the gases going into the oceans. The hurricane eyewall passed directly overhead, severely damaging almost every building.

The devastation wrought by Michael has sparked debate on whether an era of warming oceans and more severe storms might require tougher building standards in coastal areas.

A banner hangs from a damaged home as a South Florida urban search and rescue team checks for survivors of hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach, Fla.

Across the storm-hit U.S. region, relief efforts were shaping up. "Very few people live to tell what it's like to experience storm surge, and unfortunately in this country we seem to not learn the lesson". "But lots of our members are not doing so well".

In the virtually leveled oceanside town of Mexico Beach, search-and-rescue crews made two passes through the rubble and meant to continue searching Saturday.

"I spent my life savings and retirement to stay here". "Can't tell the difference between what I've picked and what I haven't". "I can't sell it now. I'm just waiting", said Morales as he wonders what he will do next.

But some found nothing left to save.

Almost 1.5 million people in the southeast were without power as of Friday morning, further hindering recovery efforts.

Officials say at least 18 people have died in Florida, Virginia, North Carolina and George.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott said Friday morning that the state has "half a million gallons of fuel being distributed daily at 40 fueling stations to support our utility crews as they work around the clock to restore power".

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