Hurricane Apocalypse in Florida: Lives Lost, Homes Gone, American Catastrophy

Famous for staying open during natural disasters Waffle House closes 21 restaurants

Michael was just the fourth major hurricane - Category 3, 4 or 5 on the Saffir-Simpson scale - to crash ashore on the Florida Panhandle since 1950, joining Eloise (1975), Opal (1995) and Dennis (2005). FEMA Administrator William "Brock" Long said he believed that the toll would increase, particularly as first responders got into places like Mexico Beach.

"All of my furniture was floating", said Marquardt, 67.

The Cooter Stew Cafe starts taking water in the town of Saint Marks as Hurricane Michael pushes the storm surge up the Wakulla and Saint Marks Rivers which come together here on October 10, 2018 in Saint Marks, Florida.

Ahead of Michael among USA hurricanes were the 1935 Labor Day hurricane, which left 485 dead; Hurricane Camille, which killed 259 people in 1969, and Hurricane Andrew in 1992, which resulted in 65 deaths, and.

Search-and-rescue teams began finding bodies in and around Mexico Beach, the ground-zero town almost obliterated by Hurricane Michael, an official said Friday as the scale of the storm's fury became ever clearer. "We need to restore basic utilities, clear our roads of trees and power lines, and assess the structural integrity of our buildings". Calling Michael "a potentially catastrophic storm", National Weather Service in Tallahassee said the "Preparations should be completed no later than Tuesday morning". In North Carolina, a falling tree killed a man in his auto, and state officials said Friday that a man and a woman died after their vehicle hit a large tree that had fallen across a road.

Other people were pulled to safety from wrecks and flash floods across the Carolinas and Virginia as tropical-storm force winds downed trees and power lines, leaving hundreds of thousands without power.

It warned of damaging winds and possible flash flooding in North Carolina and states just to the north and said the storm was still packing winds of 50 miles per hour. Similar scenes played out in parts of Virginia as the storm raced seawards.

Coastal Florida cities have been damaged beyond recognition while homes, businesses, and agriculture have been tattered or flooded from Georgia to Virginia. Families living along the Panhandle are now faced with a struggle to survive in a perilous landscape of shattered homes and shopping centres, the storm debris spread far and wide. "I don't know what I'm going to do", he said.

In Panama City, most homes were still standing, but no property was left undamaged.

When they pulled up, ripped shingles, mangled cars and twisted street signs were scattered everywhere.

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Hundreds of cars had broken windows.

Florida Senator Bill Nelson went to Panama City, up the coast from Mexico Beach, and was stunned by what he saw.

"So many lives have been changed forever", he said.

This aerial photo shows debris and destruction in Mexico Beach, Fla., Friday, Oct. 12, 2018, after Hurricane Michael went through the area on Wednesday.

An insurance company that produces models for catastrophes estimated the damage at $8 billion. Radney, who was visiting her grandparents in Seminole County, Georgia, was killed when a portable carport broke through the house and struck her in the head. State and local officials previously said a man in the state was killed Thursday when a tree fell on his auto in Iredell County.

Some fear the toll can only rise as rescue teams reach isolated areas and work through storm debris.

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.

Three days after Hurricane Michael unleashed its wrath in the Florida Panhandle, residents in some of the hardest hit areas are growing desperate for food and water. Nine people had to be rescued by helicopter from a bathroom of a home in hard-hit Panama City after their roof collapsed, Petty Officer 3rd Class Ronald Hodges said.

The concern was for people who ignored evacuation orders ahead of the storm - which grew with surprising speed from a tropical storm into an extremely powerful hurricane in less than two days - and who stayed put in communities that were demolished by Michael's assault on Wednesday.

Now they have the grim task of accounting for all who stayed behind.

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