Michael Strengthens To Category 3 Hurricane

Michael looks likely to provide extra moisture to an incoming fall system late this week

The base was evacuated in advance of the Category 4 storm that struck the Gulf Coast on Wednesday afternoon with 155 miles per hour winds and a strong storm surge.

"Impacts from Hurricane Michael along the Florida Panhandle will include a unsafe storm surge, flooding rainfall and damaging winds".

Rescuers will pick through the damage of otherwise thriving beach communities searching for survivors on Friday after Hurricane Michael, one of the most powerful storms in USA history, slammed into the Florida Panhandle, killing at least seven people.

"Gale- to storm-force winds are expected over portions of the Mid-Atlantic coast as Michael exits the USA east coast and becomes post-tropical", the National Hurricane Center said late Thursday.

ABC News chief meteorologist Ginger Zee said the ruins in Mexico Beach, Florida, were "eerily reminiscent to the scene I saw in Gulfport [Louisiana] in 2005", after Hurricane Katrina. When their house filled with surging ocean water, they fled upstairs. The destruction in this and other communities dotting the white-sand beaches is being called catastrophic - and it will need billions of dollars to rebuild.

"When the water came in houses started floating", said the man identified as Scott.

Mr Scott is also keen to avoid problems caused by Hurricane Irma just over a year ago when a lack of workers left many local shelters under-staffed.

Hundreds of residents were rescued on Thursday from cars, apartments and homes flooded by rushing water.

In his letter posted on the base's website, Laidlaw says crews need to clear trees from roads, fix power lines and "assess the structural integrity of our buildings" before anyone returns. Flash flooding may continue meanwhile in the Carolinas and mid-Atlantic states.

Another man was killed in Iredell County, North Carolina, north of Charlotte, when a tree fell on his auto, said Cooper, who blamed the incident on the storm.

National Guard troops made their way into the ground-zero town and found 20 survivors Wednesday night, and more rescue crews were pushing into the area, with the fate of many residents unknown. Though most homes were still standing, no property was left undamaged. Downed power lines and twisted street signs lay all around. We thought the windows were going to break at any time.

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"So many lives have been changed forever".

Michael was located about 270 miles (435 km) south-southwest of Apalachicola, Florida, with maximum sustained winds of 120 miles per hour (195 km per hour), the Miami-based forecaster said.

A man outside Tallahassee, Florida, was killed by a falling tree, and an 11-year-old girl in Georgia died when Michael's winds picked up a carport and dropped it on her home, debris striking her in the head.

"It should also be noted that an area of damaging wind gusts of up to 50 kt has developed around the northwest side of the circulation over central North Carolina and Virginia this afternoon", the National Hurricane Center said late Thursday.

Scott urged residents to stay inside so search-and-rescue teams could get through, adding that many roads were impassable anyway.

The Coast Guard said it rescued at least 27 people before and after the hurricane's landfall, mostly from coastal homes.

Among those brought to safety were nine people rescued by helicopter from a bathroom of their home in hard-hit Panama City after their roof collapsed, Petty Officer 3rd Class Ronald Hodges said.

Florida state officials said 285 people in Mexico Beach had defied a mandatory evacuation order ahead of Michael.

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

Authorities say two others in his crew were seriously injured. Neighbors struggled to find their homes on streets with piles of wood where houses once stood. "Do you think it would have floated away?"

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