Gov. Rick Scott says 'many families lost everything' to Hurricane Michael

S Hurricane Michael drenches Florida Panhandle

Drone footage of Mexico Beach showed a stunning landscape of devastation. Fires could be seen burning in the distance, homes shredded and boats strewn across the town of about 1,100 people. "It's like a war zone". Uprooted trees. Piles of rubble and debris everywhere.

Brock Long, head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, called Mexico Beach, which has a population of about 1,200, "ground zero" for the hurricane damage.

Florida officials said the hurricane, packing winds of 250kmh, was the most powerful storm to hit the state's Panhandle area since record-keeping began more than a century ago. "But we have architects and engineers and we need to make sure we make the reopening process as smooth as possible and as safe as possible". "Without power people can experience life-threatening events within hours of loss of power", said Dr. Kevin Yeskey with U.S. Health and Human Services.

The concern was for people who ignored evacuation orders ahead of the storm and stayed put in communities that were demolished by Michael's ferocity on Wednesday.

"You hope that somehow at the last minute a bunch of people got up and left or went somewhere else", Florida Senator Marco Rubio told CNN. "I would have to say at least as long as it did for Hurricane Andrew, and that took months and months".

Hurricane Michael reached Mexico Beach in Bay County on Wednesday afternoon as a Category 4 storm - the strongest hurricane to hit the Florida Panhandle on record and the fourth-most powerful storm to ever hit the United States.

"I think the people here have a great heart and a lot of resilience".

"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. They are cutting holes in roofs. Her brother Jeff McCall, his wife, Kristi, their two children and his wife's parents rode out the storm in their three-story home.

"I'm used to helping people and not asking for help", she said, her voice breaking with emotion.

Others came with nothing - as there was nothing left to save.

The storm has now moved beyond Florida and turned into a tropical depression as it moved over Georgia, and towards the Carolinas and Virginia.

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By the time Michael reached the western coast of Cuba on October 8, the storm had attained hurricane status.

The latest two deaths in North Carolina occurred in McDowell County when a vehicle struck a tree that had fallen across a road, officials said.

More than 900,000 homes and businesses in Florida, Alabama, Georgia and the Carolinas are without power.

President Donald Trump announced plans to visit Florida and hard-hit Georgia early next week but didn't say what day he would arrive.

The minimum central pressure of Michael was 919 mb at landfall - more forceful even than Hurricane Katrina when it hit in 2005.

"It feels like a nightmare", Mexico Beach Councilwoman Linda Albrecht said of the catastrophic damage in her town.

Like thousands of other people across the Florida Panhandle, Krista Miller was urged to evacuate her home in Apalachicola before Hurricane Michael roared ashore.

Michael wrecked buildings and tore down trees in Panama City and nearby towns.

The Pentagon positioned more than 2,200 active-duty military personnel, along with helicopters, high-water vehicles and swift-water boats.

Tyndall Air Force Base, home to the F-22 stealth fighter, suffered extensive damage, according to aerial photos of the coastal facility.

The number of dead was expected to rise, but authorities scrapped plans for setting up a temporary morgue, indicating they had yet to see signs of mass casualties from the most powerful hurricane to hit the continental U.S.in almost 50 years.

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