Hurricane Michael: Photos Show Destruction Across Florida Coast

Severe flooding, heavily damaged buildings, uprooted trees and downed power lines appeared widespread in coastal areas near the storm's landfall.
1 2018-10-11T065502Z_1_LYNXNPEE9A0HY_RTROPTP_4_STORM-MICHAEL
Hurricane Michael: Photos Show Destruction Across Florida Coast REUTERS/Steve Nesius

Hurricane Michael, the third-most powerful ever to strike the U.S. mainland, battered the Florida's Gulf coast with roof-shredding winds, raging surf and torrential rains before it was downgraded to a tropical storm as it headed through Georgia.

Michael, whose rapid intensification as it churned north over the Gulf of Mexico caught many by surprise, made landfall on Wednesday afternoon near Mexico Beach, about 20 miles southeast of Panama City in Florida's Panhandle region, with top sustained winds reaching 155 miles per hour.

The fiercest storm to hit Florida in 80 years came ashore as a Category 4 hurricane on the five-step Saffir-Simpson wind scale, the biggest storm on record to strike the Florida Panhandle. Its sustained winds were just 2 mph shy of an extremely rare Category 5.

The storm's intensity waned steadily as it pushed inland and curled northeasterly into Georgia. It was downgraded to a tropical storm, with top sustained winds diminishing to 60 miles per hour, early on Thursday.

The governors of North and South Carolina urged residents to brace for more heavy rain and storm-force winds as Michael plows northward up the Atlantic seaboard. The Carolinas are still reeling from severe flooding in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence less than a month ago.

The National Hurricane Center said Michael would pass through the Carolinas on Thursday, dumping as much as 8 inches of rain in some areas. Up to a foot of rain was forecast in Florida.

Gadsden County sheriff's spokeswoman Anglie Hightower said a "male subject" was killed by a tree toppling onto his house in Greensboro, Florida, near the state capital, Tallahassee, in the first report of a fatality from the hurricane.

Severe flooding, heavily damaged buildings, uprooted trees and downed power lines appeared widespread in coastal areas near the storm's landfall.

Television news footage during the day showed many homes submerged in floodwaters up to their roofs in Mexico Beach, where the fate of about 280 residents who authorities said defied evacuation orders was unknown.

Numerous buildings in Panama City were demolished, partially collapsed or without roofs amid deserted streets littered with debris, twisted, fallen tree trunks and dangling wires.

Authorities said the full extent of devastation would not be known until after daybreak on Thursday. In the meantime, curfews were imposed across much of the region.

Bill Manning, a 63-year-old grocery clerk, fled his camper van in Panama City for safer quarters in a hotel only to see the electricity there go out.

"My God, it's scary. I didn't expect all this," he said.

Without power, the city was plunged into darkness at nightfall and its flooded streets were mostly silent and devoid of people or traffic.

By Wednesday night, more than 403,000 homes and businesses were without electricity in Florida, Georgia and Alabama, utility companies said.

2 GettyImages-1051849594
People look on at a damaged store after Hurricane Michael passed through on October 10, 2018 in Panama City, Florida. Joe Raedle/Getty Images