Almost a Category 5 storm with maximum sustained winds of 155 miles per hour when it hit near Mexico Beach in Florida, Michael traveled northeast, decreasing to a tropical storm with 60 miles per hour winds in central Georgia by 2 a.m. EDT Thursday. Boats were tossed ashore like toys.
12 inches: The isolated maximum amount of rain that Michael was forecast to dump across the Florida Panhandle and the state's Big Bend region, as well as in southeast Alabama and parts of southwest and central Georgia.
The extent of the damage was becoming clear on Thursday as AFP reporters and photographers toured affected areas and U.S. television networks flew helicopters along the coast.
Michael weakened to a tropical storm and was moving northeast Thursday, with tropical storm warnings in effect from Georgia to North Carolina, including Savannah, Raleigh, Wilmington and Charleston. I don't know where they are.
"If you and your family made it through the storm safely, the worst thing you could do now is act foolishly", he said.
The storm, which originated in the Gulf of Mexico and quickly grew to have 155 miles per hour winds when it came ashore near Mexico Beach, Florida, toppled buildings, flooded neighborhoods, took down trees and power lines and left 700,000 homes without power in Florida, Georgia, and Alabama.
"Along a canal and the beach, foundations mark where homes once stood". The rest were missing roofs or siding. Roads were impassable and canals were choked with debris.
At ground zero, the small, sleepy city of Mexico Beach, the devastation was unthinkable.
"When the water came in, houses started floating in front of our home", he said.
"We had furniture in our house that wasn't even ours", said Scott Boutwell, explaining, when he returned to his home Thursday, the only belongings he could find was a briefcase. "There's nothing left here anymore".
"Our lives are gone here". "All the stores, all the restaurants, everything - there's nothing left here anymore". "You know, that's hard", she said, choking back tears.
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"This was never in our imagination", he said.
Authorities said 285 people in Mexico Beach had refused to leave ahead of the hurricane despite a mandatory evacuation order.
Local news station WKRG reported that about 280 of Mexico Beach's 1,000 residents did not evacuate, according to city administrator Tanya Castor.
"For North Carolina, Michael isn't as bad as Florence, but it adds unwelcome insult to injury, so we must be on alert", Gov. Roy Cooper said.
"Hurricane Michael is forecast to be the most destructive storm to hit the Florida Panhandle in a century", Governor Rick Scott said. President Donald Trump has endorsed Scott and DeSantis. "We'll make it go fast".
Farther inland, Tallahassee city officials were grappling with wind damage that had brought down numerous city's trees, blocking streets and knocking out power. "But after that we need to plan for the longer term in a way that acknowledges the combined impact [that] greenhouse gas emissions and other human factors (like urbanization near coasts) have on increasing our future risk to hurricanes".
Florida is used to storms but the Panhandle, with its low-lying coastal strip and scattered communities, hasn't seen anything this strong for more than a dozen years.
Dock Street, the arty fishing town's main drag, was mostly spared, a stark contrast from the destruction from Hurricane Hermine in 2016, that slammed the island with a nine-foot storm surge.
Millions of people are in the path of Hurricane Michael as the unprecedented storm hit the Gulf Coast today with life-threatening winds, heavy rainfall and deadly storm surge.
A year ago saw a string of catastrophic storms batter the western Atlantic - including Irma, Maria and Harvey, which caused a record-equaling $125 billion in damage when it flooded the Houston metropolitan area. The storm is expected to make landfall by early afternoon.