Its gone. Its gone, Baldwin said before her cameraman panned to long rows of leveled homes below. Its — its obliterated.
Hurricane Michael Live Updates: A Trail of Destruction in the Florida Panhandle
The small beachfront community, located about 40 miles south of Panama City, Fla., was where the Category 4 storm made landfall on Wednesday afternoon with maximum sustained winds of 155 mph, just 2 mph below the threshold of Category 5. It was the strongest hurricane ever to hit the Florida Panhandle, and the third strongest ever to strike the U.S. mainland.
Good god. This footage from @BrookeBCNN. Mexico Beach, Florida is “gone” after Michael. pic.twitter.com/Fj3l6SYeFZ
At least two people died in the storm, and federal officials fear the death toll could rise as search and rescue crews begin to assess the damage.
MEXICO BEACH, Fla. — Search-and-rescue teams rushed on Thursday to reach communities that Hurricane Michael leveled, hoping to find survivors of the powerful storm after its rampage through the Florida Panhandle and beyond left buildings collapsed and splintered, hospitals damaged, roads and water systems compromised and more than a million homes and businesses without electricity.
Hurricane Michael devastation in Panama City, Florida seen in drone video, photos
Roads to Mexico Beach were virtually impassable, so Baldwin, who spent the night in nearby Destin, Fla., chartered a chopper to get the view from above. Fires could be seen burning in the distance, homes shredded and boats strewn across the town of about 1,100 people.
Bay Medical Center Sacred Heart, a 300-bed hospital in the heart of Panama City, Fla., was a tumultuous mess on Thursday morning. Hurricane Michael had strafed the center, breaking windows, damaging roofs and stripping off the outsides of some buildings. Signage was strewn in the streets. Doctors, nurses and staff members wandered outside, some crying, some looking for cell service.
Video: Drone video of devastation left in Mexico Beach
Its just awful to look at, Baldwin told viewers before her feed cut out. It was bad in Panama City Beach, but Ive never seen anything like this … I have no words.
Video: Hurricane Michael: FEMA Focusing On Search And Rescue | TODAY
A Tampa Bay Times reporter and a photojournalist who managed to make it to Mexico Beach on the ground early Thursday described what they saw:
Four people were killed in Florida's Gadsden County, according to Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Anglie Hightower. One of them was Steve Sweet, 44, who died when a tree slammed into his Gretna home. Details were not available on the other three deaths. In southern Georgia, an 11-year-old girl was killed when a carport hit her home in Seminole County. The county coroner later identified her as Sarah Radney. A North Carolina man was killed Thursday after a tree fell on his car in Iredell County, north of Charlotte, the Associated Press reported.
Homes completely destroyed. Refrigerators and toilets where the storm left them. Thousands of two-by-fours, chewed up and indecipherable. Refrigerators, toilets, staircases to nowhere and front doors 10 feet up with no way down. The neighborhoods along U.S. 98 looked like a childs playroom after a massive tantrum.
Video: Aftermath of Hurricane Michael leaves Panama City residents stunned
FORECAST: Michaels rain brings a flash flood threat to Central Va. later today; overnight gusts could lead to outages
More than 180,000 people along the Florida Panhandle were under mandatory evacuation orders. And while many heeded those orders, some did not.
Video: Aftermath of Hurricane Michael leaves Panama City residents stunned
At least four survivors were discovered by the Tampa Bay Times reporters, including a woman and a man who were looking for help with their mothers portable oxygen machine.
Panama City residents feel wrath of Michael: Vance Beu, 29, was staying with his mother at her Panama City apartment when a pine tree slashed through the roof. Beu said the roar of the storm sounded like a jet engine as the winds accelerated. "It was terrifying, honestly. There was a lot of noise. We thought the windows were going to break at any time. We had the inside windows kind of barricaded in with mattresses," Beu said.
Slideshow: Aerial photos show the devastation left in the path of Hurricane Michael >>>
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Tropical Storm Michael is accelerating through North Carolina and Virginia with gusty winds and flooding rain. Extreme rainfall totals may occur in either of those states through early Friday as Michael swings out into the Atlantic.
Michael made landfall as a catastrophic, unprecedented Florida Panhandle Category 4 hurricane early Wednesday afternoon. For a full summary on Michael's destructive storm surge flooding, winds and heavy rain, scroll down to our recap section below.
Jinks Middle School took such a hit from the hurricane that Adair was able to fly the drone right through the school's gym, where Michael's fierce gusts peeled back the roof and collapsed walls. Not that everything was ripped apart: Even with debris lining the basketball court, a volleyball net remained taut and in place, awaiting the next match.
Yahoo News Explains: What does a mandatory evacuation look like?
The center of Michael is now pushing through North Carolina with its broad area of rain from the Upstate South Carolina to Virginia and West Virginia.
Flooding was also reported on Interstate 26 and the Interstate 126 interchange on the northwest side of Columbia early Thursday morning. Ten homes were flooded in Irmo, South Carolina, requiring some evacuations.
In North Carolina, a swift water rescue was needed due to flooding near Old Fort, and significant street flooding was reported in Hendersonville and Boone.
The center of Michael will continue to accelerate to the east-northeast through Thursday night across North Carolina into southeast Virginia, then move off the East Coast out to sea by Friday as a post-tropical low.
– Tropical-storm-force (39-plus mph) winds are possible through much of the Carolinas into Thursday night or Friday.- These winds are capable of downing trees and triggering additional power outages in these areas. This is a particular concern in areas where soil is still saturated from Florence's torrential rain in northeastern South Carolina and North Carolina.- Metro areas that may experience additional power outages through Thursday night include: Charlotte, Raleigh-Durham and Richmond.- Strong winds are forecast over portions southeastern Virginia and the Delmarva Peninsula as Michael becomes post-tropical off the mid-Atlantic coast late Thursday night into Friday.
Elmore said the road is closed west of Tallahassee, between mile marker 85 near DeFuniak Springs and mile marker 166 near Lake Seminole (map). The DeFuniak Springs exit is one of the main driving options to get to beach destinations on 30A, such as Seaside.
– Total rainfall of 4 to 7 inches is expected from the Carolinas and southern Virginia to the southern Delmarva Peninsula, with isolated totals up to 9 inches in North Carolina and Virginia. This will include some areas devastated by flooding from Hurricane Florence. That said, this system will move quickly rather than stall like Florence did and will, therefore, not bring extreme rainfall amounts. – The rest of the Northeast coast into southeast New England may see 1 to 3 inches of rain.
– As is typical with tropical cyclones, isolated tornadoes will be a threat.- Thursday and Thursday night, that tornado threat will exist from the eastern North Carolina into southeast Virginia and the Delmarva Peninsula.
– Inundation of 2 to 4 feet above ground level is possible on the sound side of North Carolina's Outer Banks as winds from Michael pile water along those coastal areas.
Hurricane Michael intensified right up to its landfall near Mexico Beach, Florida, around 12:30 p.m. CDT Wednesday as a high-end Category 4 with maximum sustained winds of 155 mph and a minimum central pressure of 919 millibars.
WATCH: Jeff Flock in Panama City Beach, FL Amid Powerful Wind Gusts From Hurricane Michael
Michael was the third most intense continental U.S. landfall by pressure and fourth strongest by maximum sustained winds on record. Michael was also the most intense Florida Panhandle landfall on record, the first Category 4 hurricane to do so in records dating to the mid-19th century.
“This morning, Florida’s Gulf Coast and Panhandle and the Big Bend are waking up to unimaginable destruction,” Gov. Rick Scott said. “So many lives have been changed forever. So many families have lost everything. … This hurricane was an absolute monster.”
Live updates: Michael kills 6, leaves trail of devastation in Florida as it spins across the Southeast
The National Hurricane Center's Storm Surge Unit, estimated peak storm surge inundation of 9 to 14 feet above ground likely occurred from Mexico Beach through Apalachee Bay, a location notorious for storm surge even from less intense tropical cyclones.
Panama City residents learn harsh lesson after Hurricane Michael: I never would have stayed
Michael's storm surge produced a peak inundation of 7.72 feet above ground level at Apalachicola, Florida, Wednesday afternoon, smashing the previous record of 6.43 feet above ground set during Hurricane Dennis in July 2005.
Peak inundation of 5.31 feet above ground at Panama City, Florida, was second only to Hurricane Opal in 1995. Cedar Key, Florida, saw peak inundation of just over 4 feet Wednesday afternoon.
At least two deaths were blamed on Michael, and it wasn’t done yet: Though weakened into a tropical storm, it continued to bring heavy rain and blustery winds to the Southeast as it pushed inland, soaking areas still recovering from last month’s Hurricane Florence.
An observing site near Tyndall Air Force Base, east of Panama City, measured a wind gust to 129 mph early Wednesday afternoon, and a gust to 107 mph was reported 1 mile south of Panama City.
At one time, it was estimated over 200 roads in the city of Tallahassee were blocked by fallen trees.
Aerial photos show unimaginable destruction from Hurricane Michael
A weather reporting station deployed by Weatherflow and the University of Florida measured a surface pressure from 920-929 millibars, an extraordinarily low pressure to measure on U.S. soil, before it was toppled, according to Shea Gibson, WeatherFlow, Inc. meteorologist.
Michael also shattered Panama City's all-time low pressure record, which had stood from Hurricane Kate in 1985.
– Florida: 129 mph at Tyndall AFB; 89 mph in Apalachicola; 71 mph in Tallahassee- Alabama: 68 mph in Dothan- Georgia: 115 mph in Donalsonville; 70 mph in Albany- South Carolina: 55 mph in Myrtle Beach; 52 mph near Charleston
Winds gusted to 50-55 mph, at times, in Augusta, Georgia, Charleston and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Thursday morning. There have been a number of reports of trees and power lines downed in eastern Georgia and South Carolina, including in the Columbia metro area.
Rainfall from Michael has now topped 6 inches in a few locations, but has been held down somewhat, primarily due to Michael's more rapid forward movement compared to Florence. Here are some notable rainfall totals by state:
– Florida: 5.26 inches at Sumatra; 3.17 inches in Tallahassee; 2.61 inches in Panama City- Alabama: 5.54 inches in Ozark; 4.92 inches in Dothan; 1.60 inches in Montgomery- Georgia: 6.48 inches near Powder Springs; 3.37 inches in Macon- South Carolina: 6.01 inches near Hartsville; 4.47 inches in Columbia- North Carolina: 9.62 inches near Black Mountain; 6.75 inches near Boone; 2.95 inches in Asheville- Virginia: 5.75 inches near White Gate; 1.40 inches in Blacksburg
Michael first developed as Tropical Depression Fourteen on Oct. 7 east of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula.
Delta cancels 80 flights due to Hurricane Michael, Hartsfield-Jackson monitoring storm
Michael rapidly intensified from a tropical depression to Category 1 hurricane in just 24 hours ending 11 a.m. EDT Oct. 8.
Michael continued to intensify right up to landfall, exhibiting eyewall lightning as it pushed to high-end Category 4 status slamming ashore in the Florida Panhandle.
Michael arrived in southwestern Georgia early Wednesday evening as a Category 3 major hurricane, the first hurricane of that strength to track into Georgia since the Georgia Hurricane of 1898, according to Dr. Phil Klotzbach, tropical scientist at Colorado State University.