Michael kills at least 6, leaves behind catastrophic damage in Florida
Tropical Storm Michael has sped off toward the Atlantic Ocean, but there will be nothing quick about Florida’s recovery from the hurricane, where rows upon rows of homes have been smashed to pieces. The storm also has brought flash flooding to hurricane-weary parts of North and South Carolina and Virginia.
WINK News reporter Kelsey Kushner was in Tallahassee with a live look at the damage:
One of Michael’s survivors said his city “looks like an atomic bomb” hit it. Florida’s Panhandle is one huge disaster zone after catastrophic winds, heavy rain and devastating storm surge. Some of the worst damage was in Mexico Beach, where the hurricane crashed ashore Wednesday as a Category 4 monster with 155 mph winds and a storm surge of 9 feet. It was the
Michael was the third-most powerful hurricane ever to make landfall in the U.S. mainland. The storm has been blamed for at least six deaths. State officials said 285 people in Mexico Beach had defied a mandatory evacuation order ahead of the storm.
As of Thursday evening, more than 900,000 homes and businesses in the Southeast had no electricity. Michael hit North Carolina and South Carolina as a tropical storm with heavy downpours and was threatening to cause tornadoes.
At 8 p.m. ET, Michael’s core was approximately 5 miles northwest of Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina, and is moving northeast near 24 mph and is expected to continue in that direction through Thursday night, according to the National Hurricane Center (NHC).
Michael forecast as of 8 p.m. ET
As of 8 p.m. ET, the NHC said Tropical Storm Michael is losing its tropical characteristics, however “damaging winds and life-threatening flash flooding” is still happening over portions of North Carolina and Virginia.
The storm was located about 5 miles northwest of Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina, and is moving northeast near 24 mph and is expected to continue in that direction with an increase in forward speed through Thursday evening. Michael will turn toward the east-northeast at an even faster forward speed expected Friday and Saturday.
NHC said Michael will cross into southeastern Virginia during the next couple of hours and then move into the western Atlantic Ocean overnight. Maximum sustained winds are near 50 mph with higher wind gusts. NHC forecasts Michael to intensify as it becomes a post-tropical low over the Atlantic late Thursday into Friday.
Tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 230 miles, primarily over water to the southeast of Michael’s center. A sustained wind of 45 mph and a gust of 67 mph was recently reported at Cherry Point Marine Corps Air Station in North Carolina, NHC said.
Florida psychiatric hospital “cut off” by Michael
State officials say Hurricane Michael left Florida’s largest psychiatric hospital “entirely cut off.”
A spokesman with the Florida Department of Children and Families says Florida State Hospital in Chattahoochee has been running on emergency generators. A helicopter dropped water and food at the facility on Thursday after a tree downed during the storm caused a water line to break.
Landlines and cellphones are also down at the hospital, which has nearly 1,000 residents and more than 300 staff. Staff are using emergency radios to stay in contact with first responders.
Many roads in and around the facility are blocked, but 50 staff from two other state mental health facilities are being brought in to assist.
Patients at the facility have been committed involuntarily either through civil or criminal cases.
Michael by the numbers
Hurricane history: First Category 4 hurricane to make landfall in Florida’s Panhandle since record-keeping began in 1851.
Top winds: 155 mph at landfall, strong enough to completely destroy homes and cause weekslong power outages.
Powerful pressure: 919 millibars minimum pressure in the eye, the third most intense hurricane landfall in the U.S. in recorded history.
High water: Estimated peak storm surge of 9 feet and 14 feet from Mexico Beach east through Apalachee Bay, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Storm riders: Roughly 375,000 people in Florida were warned to evacuate; many refused, including 285 people in Mexico Beach where Michael made landfall.
Rescued: 47 helped out of hard-hit areas along Florida’s coastline, and 20 people in flooded neighborhoods in North Carolina.
Staying safe: Nearly 6,700 people took refuge in 54 shelters in Florida.
Power outages: Roughly 1 million customers in Georgia, Florida, Alabama and South Carolina without power.
Food and water: 2 million ready-to-eat meals, 1 million gallons of water and 40,000 10-pound bags of ice ready for distribution in Florida.
The human cost: At least six people have been confirmed dead. Falling trees killed a man in Gadsden County, Florida, and a man in Iredell County, North Carolina. An 11-year-old girl in Seminole County, Georgia, was killed when a carport blew through the roof of her home.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott asks for debate delay in Senate race
Florida Gov. Rick Scott asked to delay a debate with Sen. Bill Nelson for two weeks so he can focus on response-and-recovery efforts following Hurricane Michael. Scott, a Republican, issued a statement Thursday asking CNN to postpone the debate with the Democratic incumbent, which was originally scheduled for this coming Tuesday.
Scott cited “catastrophic destruction caused by Hurricane Michael” and said he’s certain Nelson agrees the response should be a priority. He said, “We appreciate CNN understanding the dire situation in North Florida,” and added that Scott “will have no time for campaigning in the next few weeks as he focuses exclusively on recovery efforts for the foreseeable future.”