Hurricane Michael survivors wander debris, search for the missing

Hurricane Michael causes widespread damage in Florida

The destruction in this and other communities dotting the white-sand beaches is being called catastrophic - and it will need billions of dollars to rebuild.

"When the water came in houses started floating", said the man identified as Scott.

The storm inflicted significant damage in the Carolinas, including flash flooding, downed trees on roads, and people who needed to be rescued from flood waters. "The people of Florida rely on Governor Scott for accurate storm response and safety information - and a false ad suggesting Floridians should not listen to the Governor isn't just ill-timed, it's risky".

According to reports, Hurricane Michael has left behind a trail of massive destruction even as the death toll has gone up to 17 from what is being described as 'one of the most powerful storms to make landfall in the USA mainland'. Several hours passed before emergency officials could reach the unincorporated area where the girl was killed, county emergency management director Travis Brooks said. Two died in North Carolina when a vehicle smashed into a fallen tree.

Florida officials said more than 400,000 homes and businesses were without electricity in Florida and Governor Scott said almost 20,000 utility workers had been deployed to restore power.

As of 11:00, Michael was centred about 60km south of Charlotte, North Carolina, with winds of 85km/h. Similar scenes played out in parts of Virginia as the storm raced seawards.

The largest blackouts were 230,749 in North Carolina, 220,632 in Florida, 191,044 in Virginia and 105,761 in Georgia.

Utility crews will be working throughout the weekend to restore power to Virginia customers. 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.

A small "ride-out" team that hunkered down as the hurricane's destructive eyewall passed directly overhead ventured out to find almost every building severely damaged, many a complete loss. "So, if you can cut over more towards Alabama, especially if you're coming from the Atlanta area, just go as far west as you can and avoid the coastline, especially down near Alabama, Florida, because it's been-I mean, I've been looking for gas for the last 50 miles probably and this is the first place". Panama City, a popular spring break retreat, and Mexico Beach, another upscale coastline spot, were almost unrecognizable in Michael's wake.

When they pulled up, ripped shingles, mangled cars and twisted street signs were scattered everywhere.

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She said search teams were going door-to-door looking for possible storm victims who may have been trapped or killed. Nearly 1.2 million homes and businesses were without power from Florida to Virginia on Thursday.

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The first five possible cases affected children in King, Pierce, Lewis and Snohomish counties. The CDC says the number of cases appears to increase and decrease from one year to the next.

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The victims included a man who died when a tree crashed down on his home in Greensboro.

Damaged homes seen here in Mexico Beach, Fla. "Storm surge causes the most amount of loss of life".

"This morning, Florida's Gulf Coast and Panhandle and the Big Bend are waking up to unimaginable destruction", state Governor Rick Scott said.

Elsewhere, Donald Trump announced plans to visit Florida and Georgia early next week. Four deaths occurred in Gadsden County, west of Tallahassee, according to Lieutenant Anglie Hightower, a spokesman for the sheriff's office. A driver in North Carolina was killed when a tree fell on his auto.

Hundreds of people have been rescued from the debris, and authorities fear the toll could climb higher as search-and-rescue efforts continue.

Michael also disrupted energy operations in the US Gulf of Mexico as it approached land, cutting crude oil production by more than 40 percent and natural gas output by almost one-third as offshore platforms were evacuated. But it moved fast and intensified quickly, and emergency authorities lamented that many people ignored the warnings.

"Very few people live to tell what it's like to experience storm surge", Long said. Nine people had to be rescued by helicopter from a bathroom of a home in hard-hit Panama City after their roof collapsed, Petty Officer 3rd Class Ronald Hodges said.

"We had houses that were on one side of the street and now they're on the other", said Mayor Bo Patterson, who watched trees fly by his window as he rode out the storm in his home seven blocks from the beach.

Now they have the grim task of accounting for all who stayed behind. "That's probably ground zero".

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