So far, counties along the hard-hit northwest Florida coast have reported no deaths related to the storm.
Florida families are starting to emerge tentatively from darkened shelters and hotels to an unfamiliar and perilous landscape of shattered homes and shopping centers, beeping security alarms, wailing sirens and hovering helicopters, the Associated Press reported midday Thursday. Florida Gov. Rick Scott described the storm as "monstrous". "So many lives have been changed forever".
"I lost everything so I got to start over", he said near a tent in a parking lot where a Geico insurance agent was taking claims.
But the full extent of the damage was only slowly becoming clear, with some of the worst areas hard to reach.
The Florida Highway Patrol has closed an 80-mile stretch of Interstate 10 to clear debris from Hurricane Michael.
In the hours before landfall, Michael continued intensifying rapidly and reached peak wind speeds of 155 mph, just 2 mph lower than Category 5 status, as the storm approached the Florida coast.
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More than 30 health-care facilities had to be evacuated as Hurricane Michael damaged buildings and knocked out electricity in the Panhandle, state emergency management officials said Friday.
Entire blocks of homes near the beach were obliterated, reduced to nothing but concrete slabs in the sand.
"When we pulled into Mexico Beach, she was trying to jump out the window because she smelled so many bodies", he said.
"Our biggest thing is the downed lines and the downed trees and now this water main issue", said Apalachicola Mayor Van Johnson, referring to a burst water main complicating efforts to restore power.
Officials were concerned to help people who could be trapped in various areas along the coast, he told a news conference.
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Gamble said that while her home fared better than most she, and many others, were not adequately prepared for the storm. Michael was downgraded to a Category 1 hurricane when the center was over southwestern Georgia and maintained tropical storm status through South and North Carolina. The storm had top sustained winds of 60 miles per hour and was moving to the northeast at 20 miles per hour. Some isolated areas in North Carolina and Virginia could receive totals of 9 inches (23 cm).
Miami Fire Chief Joseph Zahralban, leader of a search-and-rescue unit that went into the flattened town, said: "We have one confirmed deceased and are working to determine if there are others". The building's height; however, left it vulnerable to the worst of Michael's winds and the roof was torn off in a matter of seconds. Diana owns a vacation home, and Ragsdale was able to call her and let her know that her home escaped major damage, with the exception of the roof on a carport.
The small beachfront community, located about 40 miles south of Panama City, Fla. Roofs had been peeled off. Aluminum siding was shredded to ribbons. WMAZ-TV quotes Brooks as saying a tree fell onto a home Wednesday afternoon and killed an 11-year-old girl.
When they pulled up, ripped shingles, mangled cars and twisted street signs were scattered everywhere. Stands of pine trees were flattened. They piled up mattresses around themselves for protection.
The number of dead was expected to rise, but authorities scrapped plans for setting up a temporary morgue, indicating they had yet to see signs of mass casualties from the most powerful hurricane to hit the continental U.S.in almost 50 years. The roar of the winds, he said, sounded like a jet engine. "So I followed the mandatory evacuation order and left with my wife".
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