Was Tallahassee lucky in its meeting with Hurricane Michael? A resounding yes

Was Tallahassee lucky in its meeting with Hurricane Michael? \A resounding yes\
Coastal towns in Panhandle devastated like a war zone
Tropical Storm Michael is accelerating through 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 during the afternoon of Oct. 10. 

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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.

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.

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. 

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.

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.

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

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.

Michael first developed as Tropical Depression Fourteen on Oct. 7 east of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula.

Michael rapidly intensified from a tropical depression to Category 1 hurricane in just 24 hours ending 11 a.m. EDT Oct. 8.

Video: Record-breaking hurricane slams Florida Panhandle

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.

Video: Record-breaking hurricane slams 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.

In this image made from video and provided by SevereStudios.com, damage from Hurricane Michael is seen in Mexico Beach, Fla. on Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018. Search-and-rescue teams fanned out across the Florida Panhandle to reach trapped people in Michaels wake Thursday as daylight yielded scenes of rows upon rows of houses smashed to pieces by the third-most powerful hurricane on record to hit the continental U.S. (SevereStudios.com via AP)

In this image made from video and provided by SevereStudios.com, damage from Hurricane Michael is seen in Mexico Beach, Fla. on Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018. Search-and-rescue teams fanned out across the Florida

Hector Benthall, right, gets a hug from his neighbor Keito Jordan after remnants of Hurricane Michael sent a tree crashing into Benthalls home on October 11, 2018 in Columbia, South Carolina. Jordan was the first responder to the accident that sent at least one person to the hospital.

Hector Benthall, right, gets a hug from his neighbor Keito Jordan after remnants of Hurricane Michael sent a tree crashing into Benthalls home on October 11, 2018 in Columbia, South Carolina. Jordan was the

The coastal township of Mexico Beach, Fla., lays devastated on Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018, after Hurricane Michael made landfall on Wednesday in the Florida Panhandle. (Douglas R. Clifford/Tampa Bay Times via AP)

The coastal township of Mexico Beach, Fla., lays devastated on Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018, after Hurricane Michael made landfall on Wednesday in the Florida Panhandle. (Douglas R. Clifford/Tampa Bay Times via AP)

Paul Dean stands in front of his damaged property after Hurricane Michael in Panama City, Florida on October 11, 2018. – Residents of the Florida Panhandle woke to scenes of devastation Thursday after Michael tore a path through the coastal region as a powerful hurricane that killed at least two people.

Paul Dean stands in front of his damaged property after Hurricane Michael in Panama City, Florida on October 11, 2018. – Residents of the Florida Panhandle woke to scenes of devastation Thursday after Michael

A roof over a boat storage building is collapsed following Hurricane Michael Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018, in Panama City Beach, Fla. Hurricane Michael made landfall Wednesday as a Category 4 hurricane with 155 mph (250 kph) winds and a storm surge of 9 feet (2.7 meters). (AP Photo/Chris OMeara)

A roof over a boat storage building is collapsed following Hurricane Michael Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018, in Panama City Beach, Fla. Hurricane Michael made landfall Wednesday as a Category 4 hurricane with 155 mph

Michael Williams, 70, waves to passing motorists while looking for food and water as downed trees prevent him from driving out of his damaged home with his family in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael in Springfield, Fla., Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018. “I dont know what Im going to,” said Williams. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

Michael Williams, 70, waves to passing motorists while looking for food and water as downed trees prevent him from driving out of his damaged home with his family in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael in

The coastal township of Mexico Beach, Fla., lays devastated on Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018, after Hurricane Michael made landfall on Wednesday in the Florida Panhandle. (Douglas R. Clifford/Tampa Bay Times via AP)

The coastal township of Mexico Beach, Fla., lays devastated on Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018, after Hurricane Michael made landfall on Wednesday in the Florida Panhandle. (Douglas R. Clifford/Tampa Bay Times via AP)

Employees at Shields Marina clean up the mud deposited by the storm surge from Hurricane Michael on October 11, 2018 in Saint Marks, Florida. The hurricane hit the Florida Panhandle as a category 4 storm.

Employees at Shields Marina clean up the mud deposited by the storm surge from Hurricane Michael on October 11, 2018 in Saint Marks, Florida. The hurricane hit the Florida Panhandle as a category 4 storm.

A US flag waves outside the collapsed 15th Street Flea Market in Panama City, Florida, in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael on October 11, 2018. – Residents of the Florida Panhandle woke to scenes of devastation Thursday after Michael tore a path through the coastal region as a powerful hurricane that killed at least two people.

A US flag waves outside the collapsed 15th Street Flea Market in Panama City, Florida, in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael on October 11, 2018. – Residents of the Florida Panhandle woke to scenes of

The restroom in the home of Cindy an James Murphy, in Port St. Joe, Fla., is plastered with the remnants of a violent tidal surge on Thursday , Oct. 11, 2018, which damaged most of the homes on the towns coast and decimated a majority of coastal structures in adjacent Mexico Beach after Hurricane Michael made landfall on Wednesday in the Florida Panhandle. (Douglas R. Clifford/Tampa Bay Times via AP)

The restroom in the home of Cindy an James Murphy, in Port St. Joe, Fla., is plastered with the remnants of a violent tidal surge on Thursday , Oct. 11, 2018, which damaged most of the homes on the towns coast

Homes are left swept off their foundations from the effects of Hurricane Michael, Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018, in Mexico Beach, Fla. Michael made landfall Wednesday as a Category 4 hurricane with 155 mph (250 kph) winds and a storm surge of 9 feet (2.7 meters). (AP Photo/Chris OMeara)

Homes are left swept off their foundations from the effects of Hurricane Michael, Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018, in Mexico Beach, Fla. Michael made landfall Wednesday as a Category 4 hurricane with 155 mph (250

The coastal township of Mexico Beach, Fla., lays devastated on Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018, after Hurricane Michael made landfall on Wednesday in the Florida Panhandle. (Douglas R. Clifford/Tampa Bay Times via AP)

The coastal township of Mexico Beach, Fla., lays devastated on Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018, after Hurricane Michael made landfall on Wednesday in the Florida Panhandle. (Douglas R. Clifford/Tampa Bay Times via AP)

Debris from Hurricane Michael fills a lot Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018, in Mexico Beach, Fla. Hurricane Michael made landfall Wednesday as a Category 4 hurricane with 155 mph (250 kph) winds and a storm surge of 9 feet (2.7 meters). (AP Photo/Chris OMeara)

Debris from Hurricane Michael fills a lot Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018, in Mexico Beach, Fla. Hurricane Michael made landfall Wednesday as a Category 4 hurricane with 155 mph (250 kph) winds and a storm surge of 9

Debris scatters an area in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach, Fla., Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Debris scatters an area in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach, Fla., Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Rescue personnel search amidst debris in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach, Fla., Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Rescue personnel search amidst debris in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach, Fla., Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Firefighter Austin Schlarb performs a door to door search in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach, Fla., Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Firefighter Austin Schlarb performs a door to door search in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach, Fla., Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

A boat sits amidst debris in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach, Fla., Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

A boat sits amidst debris in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach, Fla., Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Homes washed away by Hurricane Michael are shown in this aerial photo Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018, in Mexico Beach, Fla. Michael made landfall Wednesday as a Category 4 hurricane with 155 mph (250 kph) winds and a storm surge of 9 feet (2.7 meters). (AP Photo/Chris OMeara)

Homes washed away by Hurricane Michael are shown in this aerial photo Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018, in Mexico Beach, Fla. Michael made landfall Wednesday as a Category 4 hurricane with 155 mph (250 kph) winds and a

A boat sits amidst debris in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach, Fla., Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

A boat sits amidst debris in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach, Fla., Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

In this image made from video and provided by SevereStudios.com, damage from Hurricane Michael is seen in Mexico Beach, Fla. on Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018. Search-and-rescue teams fanned out across the Florida Panhandle to reach trapped people in Michaels wake Thursday as daylight yielded scenes of rows upon rows of houses smashed to pieces by the third-most powerful hurricane on record to hit the continental U.S. (SevereStudios.com via AP)

In this image made from video and provided by SevereStudios.com, damage from Hurricane Michael is seen in Mexico Beach, Fla. on Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018. Search-and-rescue teams fanned out across the Florida

A vehicle sits under a fallen tree where an occupant was trapped due to tropical storm winds brought by Hurricane Michael, Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018, in Atlanta. Firefighters rescued the woman and she was transported to a hospital. (John Spink/The Atlanta Journal and Constitution via AP)

A vehicle sits under a fallen tree where an occupant was trapped due to tropical storm winds brought by Hurricane Michael, Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018, in Atlanta. Firefighters rescued the woman and she was

In this image made from video and provided by SevereStudios.com, damage from Hurricane Michael is seen in Mexico Beach, Fla. on Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018. Search-and-rescue teams fanned out across the Florida Panhandle to reach trapped people in Michaels wake Thursday as daylight yielded scenes of rows upon rows of houses smashed to pieces by the third-most powerful hurricane on record to hit the continental U.S. (SevereStudios.com via AP)

In this image made from video and provided by SevereStudios.com, damage from Hurricane Michael is seen in Mexico Beach, Fla. on Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018. Search-and-rescue teams fanned out across the Florida

In this aerial view, storm damaged boats are seen in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael on October 11, 2018 in Panama City, Florida. – Residents of the Florida Panhandle woke to scenes of devastation Thursday after Michael tore a path through the coastal region as a powerful hurricane that killed at least two people.

In this aerial view, storm damaged boats are seen in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael on October 11, 2018 in Panama City, Florida. – Residents of the Florida Panhandle woke to scenes of devastation Thursday

A destroyed business in Panama City, Florida, in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael on October 11, 2018. – Residents of the Florida Panhandle woke to scenes of devastation Thursday after Michael tore a path through the coastal region as a powerful hurricane that killed at least two people.

A destroyed business in Panama City, Florida, in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael on October 11, 2018. – Residents of the Florida Panhandle woke to scenes of devastation Thursday after Michael tore a path

A fallen powerline is seen in front of a home in Panama City, Florida after Hurricane Michael on October 11, 2018. – Residents of the Florida Panhandle woke to scenes of devastation Thursday after Michael tore a path through the coastal region as a powerful hurricane that killed at least two people.

A fallen powerline is seen in front of a home in Panama City, Florida after Hurricane Michael on October 11, 2018. – Residents of the Florida Panhandle woke to scenes of devastation Thursday after Michael tore

In this aerial view, a storm damaged motel is seen in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael on October 11, 2018 in Panama City, Florida. – Residents of the Florida Panhandle woke to scenes of devastation Thursday after Michael tore a path through the coastal region as a powerful hurricane that killed at least two people.

In this aerial view, a storm damaged motel is seen in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael on October 11, 2018 in Panama City, Florida. – Residents of the Florida Panhandle woke to scenes of devastation Thursday

In this aerial view, storm damaged boats are seen in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael on October 11, 2018 in Panama City, Florida. – Residents of the Florida Panhandle woke to scenes of devastation Thursday after Michael tore a path through the coastal region as a powerful hurricane that killed at least two people.

In this aerial view, storm damaged boats are seen in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael on October 11, 2018 in Panama City, Florida. – Residents of the Florida Panhandle woke to scenes of devastation Thursday

In this aerial view, a storm damaged church is seen in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael on October 11, 2018 in Panama City, Florida. – Residents of the Florida Panhandle woke to scenes of devastation Thursday after Michael tore a path through the coastal region as a powerful hurricane that killed at least two people.

In this aerial view, a storm damaged church is seen in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael on October 11, 2018 in Panama City, Florida. – Residents of the Florida Panhandle woke to scenes of devastation Thursday

A fallen tree rests on a house after remnants of Hurricane Michael passed through on October 11, 2018 in Columbia, South Carolina. The accident sent at least one person to the hospital.

A fallen tree rests on a house after remnants of Hurricane Michael passed through on October 11, 2018 in Columbia, South Carolina. The accident sent at least one person to the hospital.

In this image released by the US Coast Guard (USCG), Coast Guard crew members aboard an HC-130 Hercules airplane fly over damaged homes near Apalachicola, Florida, on October 11, 2018, in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael. – Residents of the Florida Panhandle woke to scenes of devastation Thursday after Michael tore a path through the coastal region as a powerful hurricane that killed at least two people.

In this image released by the US Coast Guard (USCG), Coast Guard crew members aboard an HC-130 Hercules airplane fly over damaged homes near Apalachicola, Florida, on October 11, 2018, in the aftermath of

The overhang of a gas station is toppled over in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael on October 11, 2018 in Inlet Beach, Florida. – Residents of the Florida Panhandle woke to scenes of devastation Thursday after Michael tore a path through the coastal region as a powerful hurricane that killed at least two people.

The overhang of a gas station is toppled over in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael on October 11, 2018 in Inlet Beach, Florida. – Residents of the Florida Panhandle woke to scenes of devastation Thursday

Kathy Coy stands among what is left of her home after Hurricane Michael destroyed it on October 11, 2018 in Panama City, Florida. She said she was in the home when it was blown apart and is thankful to be alive. The hurricane hit the Florida Panhandle as a category 4 storm.

Kathy Coy stands among what is left of her home after Hurricane Michael destroyed it on October 11, 2018 in Panama City, Florida. She said she was in the home when it was blown apart and is thankful to be

Jason Phipps looks through his families roofless apartment after category 4 Hurricane Michael made land fall along the Florida panhandle, on Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018 in Panama City, FL.

Jason Phipps looks through his families roofless apartment after category 4 Hurricane Michael made land fall along the Florida panhandle, on Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018 in Panama City, FL.

A view of a hotel room with a collapsed wall in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael on October 11, 2018 in Panama City, Florida. – Residents of the Florida Panhandle woke to scenes of devastation Thursday after Michael tore a path through the coastal region as a powerful hurricane that killed at least two people.

A view of a hotel room with a collapsed wall in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael on October 11, 2018 in Panama City, Florida. – Residents of the Florida Panhandle woke to scenes of devastation Thursday after

A warehouse of boats is seen damaged at Treasure Island Marina after category 4 Hurricane Michael made land fall along the Florida panhandle, on Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018 in Panama City Beach, FL.

A warehouse of boats is seen damaged at Treasure Island Marina after category 4 Hurricane Michael made land fall along the Florida panhandle, on Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018 in Panama City Beach, FL.

A car is seen caught in flood water after category 4 Hurricane Michael made land fall along the Florida panhandle, on Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018 in Panama City, FL.

A car is seen caught in flood water after category 4 Hurricane Michael made land fall along the Florida panhandle, on Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018 in Panama City, FL.

Television reporters stand watching as category 4 Hurricane Michael makes land fall along the Florida panhandle, on Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018 in Panama City Beach, FL.

Television reporters stand watching as category 4 Hurricane Michael makes land fall along the Florida panhandle, on Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018 in Panama City Beach, FL.

Amanda Logsdon begins the process of trying to clean up her home after the roof was blown off by the passing winds of hurricane Michael on October 11, 2018 in Panama City, Florida. The hurricane hit the Florida Panhandle as a category 4 storm.

Amanda Logsdon begins the process of trying to clean up her home after the roof was blown off by the passing winds of hurricane Michael on October 11, 2018 in Panama City, Florida. The hurricane hit the Florida

Cameron Sadowski walks along where waves are crashing onto the beach as the outer bands of hurricane Michael arrive on October 10, 2018 in Panama City Beach, Florida. The hurricane is forecast to hit the Florida Panhandle at a possible category 4 storm.

Cameron Sadowski walks along where waves are crashing onto the beach as the outer bands of hurricane Michael arrive on October 10, 2018 in Panama City Beach, Florida. The hurricane is forecast to hit the

Kathy Eaton takes what she can from her home as she tries to get out of the way of the storm as the outerbands of hurricane Michael arrive on October 10, 2018 in Panama City Beach, Florida. The hurricane is forecast to hit the Florida Panhandle at a possible category 4 storm.

Kathy Eaton takes what she can from her home as she tries to get out of the way of the storm as the outerbands of hurricane Michael arrive on October 10, 2018 in Panama City Beach, Florida. The hurricane is

Waves crash along a pier as the outerbands of hurricane Michael arrive on October 10, 2018 in Panama City Beach, Florida. The hurricane is forecast to hit the Florida Panhandle at a possible category 4 storm.

Waves crash along a pier as the outerbands of hurricane Michael arrive on October 10, 2018 in Panama City Beach, Florida. The hurricane is forecast to hit the Florida Panhandle at a possible category 4 storm.

An aerial picture of people filling bags with sand at the Lynn Haven Sports Complex while preparing for Hurricane Michael October 9, 2018 in Panama City, Florida.

An aerial picture of people filling bags with sand at the Lynn Haven Sports Complex while preparing for Hurricane Michael October 9, 2018 in Panama City, Florida.

Pets are checked in, as people seek safety in a shelter as Hurricane Michael approaches on October 10, 2018 in Panama City, Florida. – Hurricane Michael closed in on Floridas Gulf Coast on Wednesday as an “extremely dangerous” category four storm packing powerful winds and a huge sea surge, US forecasters said. The Miami-based National Hurricane Center said the storm, which local forecasters are calling an “unprecedented” weather event for the area, is expected to slam ashore later in the day with “life-threatening” storm surges.

Pets are checked in, as people seek safety in a shelter as Hurricane Michael approaches on October 10, 2018 in Panama City, Florida. – Hurricane Michael closed in on Floridas Gulf Coast on Wednesday as an

Patrons enjoy beverages outside Busters Beer & Bait, one of the last bars in the area still open, as category 3 Hurricane Michael approaches the Florida panhandle, in Panama City Beach on Tuesday, Oct. 09, 2018 in Washington, DC.

Patrons enjoy beverages outside Busters Beer & Bait, one of the last bars in the area still open, as category 3 Hurricane Michael approaches the Florida panhandle, in Panama City Beach on Tuesday, Oct. 09,

Talquin Electric linemen shut off the power to Shell Point Beach prior to the arrival of Hurricane Michael on October 9, 2018 in Crawfordville, Florida.

Talquin Electric linemen shut off the power to Shell Point Beach prior to the arrival of Hurricane Michael on October 9, 2018 in Crawfordville, Florida.

Bar owner Dorothy White puts away outdoor furniture at Ouzts Too bar prior to the arrival of Hurricane Michael on October 9, 2018 in Newport, Florida.

Bar owner Dorothy White puts away outdoor furniture at Ouzts Too bar prior to the arrival of Hurricane Michael on October 9, 2018 in Newport, Florida.

People visit the beach while waiting for Hurricane Michael October 9, 2018 in Panama City Beach, Florida.

People visit the beach while waiting for Hurricane Michael October 9, 2018 in Panama City Beach, Florida.

The St. Marks River overflows into the city of St. Marks, Fla., ahead of Hurricane Michael, Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018. The National Hurricane Center says says Michael will be the first Category 4 hurricane to make landfall on the Florida Panhandle.

The St. Marks River overflows into the city of St. Marks, Fla., ahead of Hurricane Michael, Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018. The National Hurricane Center says says Michael will be the first Category 4 hurricane to

In this image made from video and provided by SevereStudios.com, damage from Hurricane Michael is seen in Mexico Beach, Fla. on Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018. Search-and-rescue teams fanned out across the Florida Panhandle to reach trapped people in Michaels wake Thursday as daylight yielded scenes of rows upon rows of houses smashed to pieces by the third-most powerful hurricane on record to hit the continental U.S. (SevereStudios.com via AP)

In this image made from video and provided by SevereStudios.com, damage from Hurricane Michael is seen in Mexico Beach, Fla. on Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018. Search-and-rescue teams fanned out across the Florida

SPRINGFIELD, Fla. – Entire oceanfront communities in the Florida Panhandle were virtually obliterated, an Air Force base suffered “catastrophic” damage and at least six people were killed by Hurricane Michael, a sucker-punch of a storm that intensified suddenly and now ranks as one of the four most powerful hurricanes ever to strike the United States.

“This one just looks like a bomb dropped,” said Clyde Cain, who is with the Louisiana Cajun Navy, a group of volunteer search-and-rescue teams that went to Florida to help in Michaels wake, just as they did last month during Hurricane Florence in the Carolinas.

Michael was downgraded to a tropical storm Thursday as it sped its way northeast through Georgia and the Carolinas on a path out into the Atlantic Ocean. But its relatively short assault on Floridas Gulf Coast was devastating.

Tiny Mexico Beach, Florida, a town of about 1,000 residents, appeared to be have been almost destroyed by Michaels 155 mph impact – just 1 mph short of a Category 5 storm. Aerial footage showed much of the seaside enclave reduced to kindling, trees sheared off just above the ground, tangles of power lines strewn in the streets and cars and boats piled up like rubbish. Entire blocks seemed essentially empty, with houses and everything else that had been on them smashed by storm surge and wind and presumably washed out to sea.

“This is not stuff that you just put back together overnight,” said William “Brock” Long, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Official states of emergency were declared in Alabama, Georgia and as far north as the Carolinas and Virginia, which are still reeling from the devastating floods of Florence. Hundreds of thousands of people remained without power late Thursday across the Southeast, and some areas were essentially cut off more than 24 hours after Michael made landfall, with roads blocked by massive trees and cellphone service completely out.

The rain and wind from the storm caused flooding and power outages in Virginia cities along the North Carolina border and in the central part of the state. Nearly 145,000 Virginians were without power Thursday evening, according to the states Department of Emergency Management.

Curtis Locus, a Florida Department of Transportation worker, said the damage he has seen across the Panhandle is unprecedented.

“This was a community in the middle of the forest. Now the forest is gone, and so is the community,” Locus said. “Its a beautiful place. . . . This is Party Town, USA. Now its Devastated Town, USA. Everything along the coastline was devastated like a war zone.”

Here in Springfield and nearby Panama City, apartment buildings are roofless, gas station awnings are twisted beyond recognition, businesses collapsed, metal posts as thick as tree trucks were folded in half, and billboards were blown onto homes or crushed cars.

“We didnt figure it was going to be this bad,” said Mike Davis, 56, sitting on the sidewalk outside Oasis Liquor, a store on Panama Citys 15th Street, staring dully at the debris around him. “This is devastating.”

Davis lives two blocks away and rode out the storm with his family. He decided to stay because he didnt think the storm would be very bad. When he woke Tuesday and heard that Michael had intensified, it was too late to leave.

Michael was as powerful as it was unexpected, careening across the Gulf of Mexico and intensifying rapidly into a powerhouse. The night before the hurricane hit, police told Georgia Wells, 35, that she and her family were in a safe zone here in Springfield in a public housing complex. By Wednesday afternoon, shortly before landfall, it was clear they were in terrible danger.

Her six children, mother and brother gathered in smallest bedroom of their apartment. As the winds howled and shrieked – Wells said it sounded more like a tornado than a hurricane – the drywall began to tear apart, the roof started to collapse and water flooded in. They ran for cover in a bathroom. The apartment was destroyed.

Families that live in the complex slept in cars and on benches Wednesday night and were planning to do the same Thursday.

“Everyone in this place has nowhere to go. Were stuck,” Wells said. “We dont have money to go anywhere.”

Just west of here, Panama City Beach, a resort area popular with retirees and spring-breakers, also was nearly wiped away by the wind and walls of water, with guardrails and roofs twisted into ribbons. The storm toppled 30-ton train cars.

Michael also pummeled Tyndall Air Force base, set directly on the shoreline between Panama City and Mexico Beach, causing “widespread roof damage to nearly every home and leaving the base closed until further notice,” officials said in a statement.

The bases 600 families had been evacuated Monday, and many were taken to shelters to ride out the storm. No injuries had been reported there as of late Thursday.

Aerial footage showed buildings destroyed and a parking lot looking like a salvage yard filled with overturned RVs and trucks. A display of an F-15 fighter jet at the base entrance was torn from its base and flipped upside down.

Rescuers continued to search for survivors and victims of the storm on Thursday as authorities warned that the death toll could rise.

In Gadsden County in northwest Florida, not far from Tallahassee, which took a direct shot from Michael, the sheriffs office reported four deaths related to the storm. It released details of only one: a man who was killed when a tree crashed through the roof of his home.

A 38-year-old man was killed Thursday afternoon in North Carolinas Iredell County, north of Charlotte, when a tree fell on the vehicle he was driving, according to David Souther, the countys fire marshal.

Officials in Seminole County, Georgia, north of the Florida border, said early Thursday that an 11-year-old girl in a mobile home was killed by a metal carport that was thrown into the air by Michaels gusting winds.

Michaels immense devastation made it difficult for rescuers to reach some areas Thursday. Cain, of the Cajun Navy, said even his storm-hardened rescue crews were being especially cautious because Michael knocked down so many trees and utility poles.

“This one is so powerful that my guys are having to use chain saws to cut through downed trees to get into the neighborhoods,” Cain said. “This one is just real bad, and no one saw it coming.”

Meteorologists had seen Michael coming and had been warning for several days that it was a serious storm. But what they did not anticipate, many said, was Michaels furious intensification in the hours before it made landfall, and how far inland it managed to maintain that ferocity.

“Wow! This one we werent expecting,” said Steve Bowen, director and meteorologist at the risk consultancy Aon, who works with insurance agencies to analyze natural disaster risk. He said Michael broke many rules because it “maintained hurricane intensity nearly 200 miles inland.”

Bowen said Michael, the most intense hurricane on record to strike the Panhandle, is likely to lead to a rethinking of building codes in the area.

He and other officials estimated that Michaels damage would run into the billions of dollars, even though the storm did not strike a major population center as Hurricane Harvey did when it made landfall in Texas and then hovered over Houston last year, dropping record amounts of rain.

Michael blasted apart homes, businesses and landmarks across a part of Florida not accustomed to direct hits from monster hurricanes.

Robin Ford, who co-owns 4C BBQ Family Restaurant in Defuniak Springs, was helping feed hundreds of first responders with a giant smoker on Thursday, handing out brisket, steaks and pulled pork. His restaurant is about 45 miles northwest of Panama City, and the area has become a staging ground for first responders.

“I hate to say this, but we are sending these first responders into a war zone,” Ford said. “I used to be a deputy sheriff in Texas, and we had a tornado come through, and this is what it looked like. It looked like a nuclear bomb went off.”

Ford, an Air Force veteran, is president of Healing Tools for Warriors, which works with veterans and first responders with PTSD to help out in natural disasters, “and make them a part of society again – let them know they are heroes.”

“Some guys with PTSD dont want to go to shelters because its hard being in crowds,” he said. “Its hard for them to evacuate.”

Those two veterans were eventually rescued by the National Guard after “the roof had blown off” the building they were in.

Penny Pinkham, founder of Healing Tools for Warriors, said she and others from her organization are seeing “awful” things. She said much of the Bay Medical Centers roof ws torn away.

“Theres just devastation everywhere,” she said, adding that many people were still communicating by walkie-talkies on Thursday because cellphone service was still down.

Ford said scores of other veterans were helping out, clearing debris and assisting emergency responders. “We are loading up water and blankets, and we are taking stuff to anyone who has nothing,” Ford said. “And thats looking like a lot of people.”

On St. George Island, about 75 miles southeast of Panama City, Nick Cabrera, 39, and his wife Amy, 37, rode out the storm along with eight children, ages 2 to 16.

Amy Cabrera is the innkeeper for the St. George Inn, where they sheltered. She said they considered leaving.

“We werent sure which way to go, so we just kinda decided to stay,” Nick Cabrera said. “The water coming up was pretty crazy. Picnic tables floating by. It didnt cover the street signs, but it was close.”

Video: In Panama City, residents begin to assess the damage left in the wake of Hurricane Michael. For those who evacuated, it means wondering if their homes remain standing.(Alice Li,Jon Gerberg,Jorge Ribas/The Washington Post)

Video: Hurricane Michael made landfall in Apalachicola, Fla., on Oct. 10.(Meg Kelly,Allie Caren/The Washington Post)


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