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13 October 2018, 06:28 | Justin Tyler
Florida town almost wiped off the map by Hurricane Michael
Downed trees and gale-force winds knocked power out to 900,000 homes and businesses. "This is just a small unique coastal community".
"When the water came in houses started floating", said the man identified as Scott. "If you don't have to come towards the coast, I would stay as far west of the panhandle as you can because it's just insane down here". "People will just pack up and leave".
Flooding continues along the Gulf Coast, where downed trees and utility poles are complicating rescue efforts.
Isolated tornadoes are possible Thursday in South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia.
Long lines have formed outside fire stations, schools and Salvation Army food trucks as residents try to secure anything from bottled water and ready-to-eat meals to hot meals.
Michael, the third most powerful hurricane ever to hit the United States mainland, weakened overnight to a tropical storm but marched northeast on Thursday, toppling trees with 80kph winds and bringing "life threatening" flash flooding to Georgia and Virginia, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) reported.
"We still haven't gotten into the hardest-hit areas", he said, adding with frustration: "Very few people live to tell what it's like to experience storm surge, and unfortunately in this country we seem to not learn the lesson". Families living along the Panhandle are now faced with a struggle to survive in a perilous landscape of shattered homes and shopping centres, the storm debris spread far and wide.
WJHG news crews got a first look at the damage Hurricane Michael left behind in Panama City; the city they love and call home. Downed power lines lay almost everywhere. Homes were split open by fallen trees.
Hundreds of residents were rescued Thursday from cars, apartments and homes flooded by rushing water. Numerous 600 families who live there had followed orders to pack what they could in a single suitcase as they were evacuated ahead of the storm.
"This morning, Florida's Gulf Coast and Panhandle and the Big Bend are waking up to unimaginable destruction", state Governor Rick Scott said.
An insurance company that produces models for catastrophes estimated Michael caused about $8 billion in damage. It doesn't include losses covered by the National Flood Insurance Program.
Six deaths have been confirmed - four in Florida, one in Georgia and one in North Carolina. In North Carolina, a falling tree killed a man in his vehicle, and state officials said Friday that a man and a woman died after their auto hit a large tree that had fallen across a road.
We've reached out to Melendez, who appears to have driven out to the Florida Panhandle to chase the storm, and will update this story upon hearing back.
More than 375,000 people up and down the Gulf Coast were ordered or urged to clear out as Michael closed in. But emergency authorities lamented that many ignored the warnings.
Ken Widelski, NOAA/NWS emergency-response meteorologist, said the storm presented a risk of more flooding for communities in SC and North Carolina still recovering from Hurricane Florence, which made landfall last month as a Category 1 storm but soaked the area after stalling for several days.
Among those brought to safety were nine people rescued by helicopter from a bathroom of their home in Panama City, another one of the hardest-hit spots, after their roof collapsed, Petty Officer 3rd Class Ronald Hodges said.
At least seven people were killed by the storm in Florida, Georgia and North Carolina from falling trees and other hurricane-related incidents, according to state officials.
This photo shows devastation from Hurricane Michael in this aerial photo over Mexico Beach, Fla. But the fate of many residents was unknown.
Mishelle McPherson's elderly neighbour was among those who stayed behind.
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Yes there were some really bad decisions in the game but I have seen some really bad decisions from referees in men's games, too. We have to improve and play a good game but it is not easy to play against England without fans", he added.