Hurricane Michael's death toll rises after five killed in Virginia

Sergio Conner
October 12, 2018

Search and rescue teams combed through shattered USA communities on Thursday looking for victims of Hurricane Michael, a Category 4 monster storm which carved out a swathe of destruction in the Florida Panhandle, killing at least six in three states.

"This morning, Florida's Gulf Coast and Panhandle and the Big Bend are waking up to unimaginable destruction", Governor Rick Scott said.

The moment was captured on ABC News' live video, and it was also widely shared on social media, where many questioned the fate of the four-legged storm victims.

Spots in Morganton and Mocksville saw more than 5 inches of rain, says the USGS.

The full extent of Michael's fury was only slowly becoming clear, with some of the hardest-hit areas difficult to reach with roads blocked by debris or water.

"Michael made landfall on Wednesday around 2 pm near Mexico Beach, Florida, dashing homes into pieces, swallowing marinas and leaving piles of rubble where shopping centres once stood", CNN said.

Other homes were left in pieces - still others, slumping at unusual angles. Roofs were peeled away, sent airborne, and homes were split open by fallen trees.

More than 375,000 people along the Gulf Coast were given mandatory evacuation orders, but many people defied the calls.

Mishelle McPherson and her ex-husband searched for the elderly mother of a friend.

The kitties were found in a home with a collapsed ceiling in Panama City, Florida, and have become a symbol of resilience and hope for some in the wake of the ferocious storm.

"I didn't think it was going to be this bad", said Jones on her decision to stay through the storm.

Several thousands National Guard troops, law enforcement officers and medical teams have been deployed in the recovery effort.

From a helicopter, you can see that numerous homes and hotels that populated this beachside town of about 1,200 are gone.

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Only three major hurricanes have made landfall in the Panhandle since 1950: Eloise in 1975, Opal in 1995 and Dennis in 2005. Mr Rick Scott told a news conference on Tuesday: "Hurricane Michael is a monster storm and it keeps getting more unsafe ".

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"We anticipate that number to continue to grow as neighbors continue to report outages and our system monitoring assets are returned to service", Tallahassee Commissioner Scott Maddox said in a Facebook post.

Over 900,000 homes and businesses in Florida, Alabama, Georgia and the Carolinas were without power.

The state mental hospital in Chattahoochee, which has a section for the criminally insane, was cut off by land, and food and supplies were being flown in, authorities said.

One man died when a tree fell into his home on the Florida Panhandle, and an 11-year-old girl was killed after a tree fell onto her home in Georgia.

Hundreds of cars had broken windows.

Waves crash on stilt houses along the shore due to Hurricane Michael at Alligator Point in Franklin County, Florida, U.S., October 10, 2018.

Two people have been killed in Florida by falling trees, officials said. Twisted street signs lay on the ground. She was safe until a carport came crashing through the roof.

"It was kind of like a train coming through your neighborhood and we were watching trees fall and stuff like that", said Franklin County Sheriff A.J. Smith.

Michael crossed Georgia with heavy winds overnight and, now a tropical storm, is headed to the Carolinas.

- Rescued: 47 helped out of hard-hit areas along Florida's coastline, and 20 people in flooded neighborhoods in North Carolina. Pine trees were stripped and snapped off about 20 feet (7 meters) high.

Michael also disrupted energy operations in the US Gulf of Mexico as it approached land, cutting crude oil production by more than 40 percent and natural gas output by almost one-third as offshore platforms were evacuated. It moved so fast that people didn't' have much time to prepare, and emergency authorities lamented that many ignored the warnings and seemed to think they could ride it out.

And by the time it came ashore on Wednesday at Category 4 strength, Micheal was the strongest storm to make landfall since Hurricane Camille in 1969 and the third strongest on record. Beginning Sunday, it strengthened from tropical depression to Category 1 hurricane, gained power and, within one 24-hour period, increased its maximum wind speed from 74 mph, or a minimal Category 1 hurricane, to 155 mph, a strong Category 4.

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