NOAA Says It’s Category 3 With 120 Mph Winds, Storm Surge

Pablo Tucker
October 12, 2018

Some of the worst damage was in Mexico Beach, where the hurricane crashed ashore Wednesday as a Category 4 monster with 155 miles per hour (250 kph) winds and a storm surge of 9 feet (2.7 meters). NHC said those areas will likely experience a "life-threatening" storm surge, where 9 to 13 feet of inundation is possible in the worst areas between Tyndall Air Force Base and Keaton Beach.

Rescuers will pick through the damage of otherwise thriving beach communities searching for survivors on Friday after Hurricane Michael, one of the most powerful storms in US history, slammed into the Florida Panhandle, killing at least seven people.

While forecasters said Michael was gradually losing its tropical traits, a new chapter would begin as an extra-tropical storm, predicted to intensify with gale force winds once it starts cross out into the Atlantic.

A Mexico Beach resident who rode out the hurricane described the impact of the storm surge to CNN.

Storm waters as high as 12 feet could pound the coast, from Indian Pass to the island of Cedar Key, where a hurricane pushed ashore a deadly 10-foot storm surge that killed 100 people in 1986. Debris is strewn across miles of Florida's coastline: Roofs and awnings peeled back from buildings, pieces of homes scattered amid snapped trees and downed power lines, chunks of beaches washed away. "All of my furniture was floating", she said.

One major concern? That another tropical inundation coming so soon after Hurricane Florence could cause already swollen rivers to flood again. "It was bad, and now there's just nothing left".

In his letter posted on the base's website, Laidlaw says crews need to clear trees from roads, fix power lines and "assess the structural integrity of our buildings" before anyone returns. Street flooding was reported in Roanoke and other southwestern Virginia cities that reported motorists caught in flooding had to be rescued.

"I know people are worn out from Florence, but don't let this storm catch you with your guard down", North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said, adding, "A number of homes have rooftop tarps that could be damaged or blown away with this wind".

Diane Farris, 57, and her son walked to a high school-turned-shelter near their home in Panama City to find about 1,100 people crammed into a space meant for about half as many.

Sarah Radney saw trees falling down all around her grandparents' home when Hurricane Michael roared over Georgia.

Hundreds of cars had broken windows. The hurricane damaged hospitals and nursing homes in Panama City, and officials worked to evacuate hundreds of patients.

"So many lives have been changed forever".

"It is a monstrous storm and the forecast (keeps) getting more risky", Florida Governor Rick Scott said.

Florida's U.S. Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio and 13 members of Florida's congressional delegation have formally asked the White House to declare a pre-landfall state of emergency for Florida as Hurricane Michael looms.

The 11-year-old girl and at least five others have been killed since Michael made landfall Wednesday and made its way northeast leaving a path of destruction, officials said.

"It should also be noted that an area of damaging wind gusts of up to 50 kt has developed around the northwest side of the circulation over central North Carolina and Virginia this afternoon", the National Hurricane Center said late Thursday.

The full extent of Michael's fury was only slowly becoming clear, with some of the hardest-hit areas difficult to reach because of roads blocked by debris or water.

Among those brought to safety were nine people rescued by helicopter from a bathroom of their home in hard-hit Panama City after their roof collapsed, Petty Officer 3rd Class Ronald Hodges said. The woman lived in a small cinderblock house about 150 yards (meters) from the Gulf and thought she would be OK. "Do you think it would have floated away?"

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