Rescues, damage in Florida after hurricane — WHAT'S HAPPENING

Rescues, damage in Florida after hurricane — WHAT'S HAPPENING

The Gulf of Mexico gave Michael exactly what it needed to bulk up into a monster: The water was 4 to 5 degrees F (2.2 to 2.8 degrees C) warmer than normal, and high-atmosphere winds that can disrupt a hurricane were quiet.

Michael, the third most powerful hurricane ever to hit the USA mainland, weakened overnight to a tropical storm and pushed northeast on Thursday, bringing drenching rains to Georgia and the Carolinas, which are still recovering from Hurricane Florence last month.

Scott held a news conference Wednesday evening and urged people to stay off roads and leave them open to first responders as they begin the work of search and rescue - and recovery.

And unless we change the rate of greenhouse gas emissions, we should expect hurricanes to intensify more rapidly in the coming decades, the scientific research group Climate Central said. So many families have lost everything. An 80-mile stretch of Interstate 10, the main east-west route along the Panhandle, was closed because of debris.

The storm, which in less than two days grew from a tropical storm to a Category 4 hurricane on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale, tore apart entire neighborhoods in the Panhandle, reducing homes to naked concrete foundations or piles of wood and siding. Patterson estimated 1,000 homes were completely or partially destroyed in his town of 3,500 people. The Gulf Coast Regional Medical Center was evacuating patients and suspended most services.

The emergency workers include ambulance teams coordinated by the Louisiana health department, search-and-rescue workers from the fire marshal's office, firefighters, medics and a helicopter team from the Louisiana National Guard.

"There were mandatory evacuation orders, but only idiots like us stuck around", said Jordon Tood, 31, a charter boat captain in Port St. Joe.

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

"Do you think her body would be here?"

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"But it's different when you walk down and see this, and your emotions run away".

Linda Marquardt, 67, rode out the storm with her husband at their home in Mexico Beach. Michael's storm surge pushed lead-gray water up to the rooftops. When they finally made it, they took Sarah's grandmother to a hospital, where she was treated for a punctured lung, a broken rib and flesh wounds, Amber Radney said. "It was bad, and now there's just nothing left".

"It feels like you don't know when the next tree is going to fall on top of you because it's blowing so ferociously", he said by telephone. "We've been writing things down on pieces of paper".

Hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses were left without electricity in Florida, Alabama and Georgia.

Derek Schwartz from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, tweeted "Believe it or not this shark has made its way on to the freeway near Mexico Beach by Panama City".

In Panama City, most homes were still standing, but no property was left undamaged. Twisted street signs lay on the ground. Roofs had been peeled off.

The most powerful hurricane ever to hit north-west Florida has flooded beach towns, submerging homes and snapping trees like twigs. We thought the windows were going to break at any time. Pine trees were stripped and snapped off about 6m high. All phone communicaiton was cut off to the complex of almost 1,000 residents and more than 300 staff, leaving emergency radios as their only link out.

A falling tree killed a man after it crashed into his home in Greensboro, Florida, authorities said. A driver in North Carolina was killed when a tree fell on his auto. Street flooding was reported in Roanoke and other southwestern Virginia cities that reported motorists caught in flooding had to be rescued.

As reported, Michael's wind speeds reached a staggering 150 miles per hour, while moving at 14 miles per hour. The storm had top sustained winds of 60 miles per hour (96 kph) and was moving to the northeast at 20 miles per hour (32 kph).

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