Storm creates a swath of destruction

'Monster' Hurricane Michael strengthens on its way to Florida

'Monster' Hurricane Michael strengthens on its way to Florida

With a low barometric pressure recorded at 919 millibars, a measure of a hurricane's force, Michael was the third strongest storm on record to hit the continental United States, behind only Hurricane Camille on the Mississippi Gulf Coast in 1969 and the Labor Day hurricane of 1935 in the Florida Keys. The governor pleaded with people in the hard-hit areas to stay away for now. "It's gone", reporter Brooke Baldwin somberly noted while looking at the destruction and flattened homes across the city.

"We don't know if it's going to wipe out our house or not", Jason McDonald, of Panama City, said as he and his wife drove north to safety into Alabama with their two children, ages 5 and 7.

Sally Crown rode out Michael on the Florida Panhandle thinking at first that the worst damage was the many trees downed in her yard.

Mandatory evacuation orders went into effect in Panama City Beach and other low-lying areas in the storm's path. It could send life-threatening surges of ocean water to coastal areas throughout the state.

According to Stormwater Solutions, the storm is the first Category 4 storm to make landfall in the Florida Panhandle and the strongest storm in the US this year.

Forecasters say strong winds are still possible in parts of northeastern North Carolina, southeastern Virginia, and the Delmarva Peninsula (which is divided between Maryland, Virginia, and Delaware).

President Donald Trump has endorsed Scott and DeSantis. Becker said about 55 people were in the shelters early Thursday. "You want to check on things and begin the recovery process", Scott said.

In Georgia, some of the worst damage hit the southwestern section of the state, where it devastated farms at a particularly vulnerable time of the year. The Florida Highway Patrol has 450 troopers working in the Panhandle, while 150 Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers are conducting rescue missions.

Twenty miles south of Mexico Beach, floodwaters were more than seven feet deep near Apalachicola, a town of about 2,300 residents, hurricane center chief Ken Graham said.

The intense power of Michael caught many people off guard.

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More than 19,000 utility workers from companies in Florida and across the country have started assessing the damages.

3,000: Number of personnel the Federal Emergency Management Agency deployed ahead of landfall.

Rescuers are still trying to get to some of the hardest-hit areas to check for anyone trapped or injured in debris.

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.

In Panama City, a massive metal pole holding up a billboard toppled over, crushing a building below it.

Calhoun, Gadsden and Jackson counties, which are north of Bay County, were 100 percent without power. An 80-mile (130-kilometer) stretch of Interstate 10, the main east-west route along the Panhandle, was closed.

After 1950, 4 major hurricanes came ashore in Panhandle: "Eloise" in 1975, Opal in 1995, Dennis in 2005, and in 2018 - "Michael". Two people were reported dead due to the storm as of Thursday morning: A man in Florida was killed when a tree fell on top of his house, and an 11-year-old child was killed in Georgia when debris fell on a home.

"The community's pretty resilient", said Gregg Troy, 67.

By comparison, about 75,000 customers lost power during Hurricane Hermine, which struck Tallahassee in 2016, said Gillum, the Democratic candidate for governor.

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