The death toll from Hurricane Michael's lethal sweep across the Southeast rose to 18 on Saturday when another victim was found in Virginia. State officials in affected areas, particularly Florida, expect it to go higher yet.
Thousands of people are still being reported missing by their friends and relatives, but emergency officials are unable to say whether they may be in real danger or simply unable to get in touch. Completing all the welfare checks requested could take weeks in hard hit regions.
For survivors, meanwhile, rebuilding is a daunting prospect. "Everybody just needs to help each other right now," said Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) on Saturday. "They might have lost their house. They worry about their kids getting into school. You know, people don't sit and have a whole bunch of extra money in the bank just waiting for a disaster." Bonnie Kristian
Hurricane Michael, now a tropical storm threatening flash flooding in Virginia and North Carolina plus tornadoes farther south, was not oversold. If anything, hurricane forecasters and locals were taken by surprise at the speed with which Michael exploded into a Category 4 hurricane — at one point it was just 1 mph below Category 5 status — and its ability to maintain hurricane strength as it rolled over the Florida Panhandle and into Georgia.
At least six people were killed in the storm, and search-and-rescue teams are checking the wreckage for survivors. The small Florida town Mexico Beach, where Michael made landfall, was almost completely obliterated. Panama City and Springfield are full of roofless buildings and twisted metal. Tyndall Air Force Base, near Panama City, is closed after suffering "catastrophic" damage in the winds and storm surge. Dan Simon, a first responder from Louisiana, told CBS News on Thursday that what Michael did to Mexico Beach "is what Katrina did to New Orleans, especially the Lower Ninth Ward."
There was also lots of war imagery thrown about. "This one just looks like a bomb dropped," Clyde Cain, a search-and-rescue volunteer with the Louisiana Cajun Navy, told The Washington Post. Florida Department of Transportation worker Curtis Locus added that "everything along the coastline was devastated like a war zone." The area "was a community in the middle of the forest," he added. "Now the forest is gone, and so is the community." You get different views of the destruction in the reports from ABC News and NBC News below. Peter Weber
Hurricane Michael is now a Category 1 storm, after making landfall near Mexico Beach, Florida, midday Wednesday as an "extremely dangerous" Category 4 with winds of 155 mph.
At least one death has been reported: The Gadsden County Sheriff's Office says a man was killed when a tree fell on his house. Michael is the most powerful hurricane to hit the continental U.S. in nearly five decades, and the strongest on record to hit the Florida Panhandle. The hurricane was boosted by unseasonably warm waters in the Gulf of Mexico. Michael caused extensive damage in Mexico Beach and Panama City, destroying homes, uprooting trees, and downing power lines. It entered Georgia as a Category 3 storm, and it's expected to be downgraded soon to a tropical storm as it makes its way through the southeast.
In Panama City, the streets are littered with street signs, metal, plywood, and other debris. Local resident Vance Beu told The Associated Press a pine tree fell on the roof of his mother's apartment, and the storm was so loud it sounded like a jet engine. "It was terrifying, honestly," he said. "There as a lot of noise. We though the windows were going to break at any time. We had the inside windows kind of barricaded in with mattresses." Catherine Garcia
Hurricane Michael has made landfall in Florida — and it's looking to be a historically powerful storm.
Brock Long, the administrator of FEMA, told President Trump on Wednesday that Michael looks to be the most intense storm the Florida panhandle has seen in 167 years, calling it a "Gulf Coast hurricane of the worst kind," per CNN. There have been no recorded instances of a Category 4 hurricane hitting the Florida panhandle going back to 1851, per The Washington Post. But Michael is a Category 4 and just a few miles per hour away from being a Category 5, USA Today reports.
Long delivered this information to President Trump in the Oval Office, also saying that the agency is "concerned" that not enough people are evacuating the area, which is expected to be hit with winds over 145 mph. "Structures built before 2001 are not designed to handle that type of wind, typically," Long said, adding that storm surges between nine and 14 feet are expected.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott has referred to Michael as the "worst storm that our Florida panhandle has seen in a century," per The New York Times. The hurricane on Wednesday afternoon made landfall in Mexico Beach, per The Weather Channel. It's then expected to make its way to Georgia, with FEMA warning that those in the area must "wake up and pay attention," The Hill reports. Brendan Morrow
Hurricane Michael has become an "extremely dangerous" Category 4 storm, the National Hurricane Center said early Wednesday, projecting that it will make landfall near Panama City, Florida, Wednesday afternoon. A Category 4 hurricane has maximum sustained winds of at least 130 mph, and experts warn of a dangerous storm surge of up to 13 feet. Hurricane Michael is moving north at 12 mph, and it will be only the fourth major hurricane — Category 3 or higher — to hit the Florida Panhandle since 1950. "If you went to sleep eight hours ago thinking this storm was bad, you are waking up to find out it is catastrophic," said CNN's John Berman on Wednesday morning from Panama City.
If that sounds like typical cable news hyberbole, the National Hurricane Center calls Michael "a life-threatening event for the northeastern portion of the Gulf Coast." The National Weather Service has a similar message, warning Florida Panhandle residents early Wednesday that it is their last chance to evacuate from this "unprecedented" hurricane and possible death.
If you live along the coast and were told to evacuate...this is YOUR LAST CHANCE. Hurricane Michael is an unprecedented event and cannot be compared to any of our previous events. Do not risk your life, leave NOW if you were told to do so. pic.twitter.com/Ns6XoH6Thz
Hurricane Michael is expected to become a Category 4 storm before it makes landfall in either the Florida Panhandle or Florida Big Bend area midday Wednesday, the National Hurricane Center said late Tuesday.
A Category 4 storm brings maximum sustained winds of at least 130 mph, and experts warn of dangerous storm surge. This could be the strongest storm to hit the region in 13 years, and state officials are urging all residents living in evacuation zones to leave.
Hurricane Michael, now about 220 miles south-southwest of Panama City, Florida, is moving north at 12 mph, a Category 3 storm with sustained winds of 120 mph. After the storm makes landfall, it is expected to weaken as it moves across the southeastern United States. Catherine Garcia
Hurricane Michael is currently a Category 1 hurricane with sustained winds of up to 90 miles per hour, battering western Cuba with heavy rain and winds as it gains speed, but the U.S. National Hurricane Center expects Michael to be a major hurricane by the time it hits the Florida Panhandle and Big Bend area on Wednesday. That means a category 3 Hurricane or stronger, with sustained winds of at least 111 mph. Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) called Michael a "monstrous hurricane," and he's declared a state of emergency for 35 counties and activated the National Guard. Along with the winds and heavy rains, part of the Big Bend area could see storm surges of up to 12 feet.
Parts of the Florida Panhandle are under mandatory evacuation. "If you decide to stay in your home and a tree falls on your house or the storm surge catches you and you're now calling for help, there's no one that can respond to help you," Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan said at a news conference on Monday. Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, the Democratic nominee to replace Scott — who himself is running for Senate — was filling sandbags with residents on Monday. "Today it is about life and safety," Gillum said. "There's nothing between us and this storm but warm water and I think that's what terrifies us about the potential impacts."
Michael is projected to cross from northern Florida to Georgia and North and South Carolina before returning to the Atlantic. The Carolinas are still recovering from Hurricane Florence, but Michael will likely weaken to a winter tropical storm by the time it leaves Florida. Peter Weber