Residents and rescue workers in Florida and other southeastern us states were in the midst of recovering Friday from the devastation inflicted by Hurricane Michael, the remnants of which have moved out into the Atlantic Ocean.
Southwestern Georgia experienced hurricane-strength winds on Wednesday evening, downing numerous trees and causing property damage and power outages.
Search-and-rescue teams began finding bodies in and around Mexico Beach, the ground-zero town almost obliterated by Hurricane Michael, an official said today as the scale of the storm's fury became ever clearer.
Surging water filled their first floor, now muddy and ruined. They're surrounded now by devastation: fishing boats and cars tossed like toys, empty slabs where people hopefully escaped before houses exploded in 155 miles per hour (249 kph) winds and were washed away by the storm surge. All three were Category 5 hurricanes. Officials predicted rebuilding costs in the billions.
"All of my furniture was floating", said Marquardt, 67. "A river just started coming down the road. It was terrible, and now there's just nothing left".
Trees were downed in Panama City, northwest of Mexico Beach, buildings flattened, boats and electrical cables scattered.
The hurricane hit the panhandle area with category 4 winds that caused major damage.
Several thousands National Guard troops, law enforcement officers and medical teams have been deployed in the recovery effort.
Many residents with destroyed or damaged homes counted themselves lucky to have survived. Homes were split open by fallen trees.
Hundreds of cars had broken windows. Patients were moved out of hurricane-damaged hospitals and nursing homes. Numerous 600 families who live there had followed orders to pack what they could in a single suitcase as they were evacuated. The elementary school, the flight line, the marina and the runways were devastated. You have to hunt around to find the exact spots where the strongest winds are blowing, and then drop your instruments in, remembering that you're dropping it from let's say 10,000 feet, it's going to get blown sideways as it drops toward the ground.
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"This morning, Florida's Gulf Coast and Panhandle and the Big Bend are waking up to unimaginable destruction", state Governor Rick Scott said.
"We still haven't gotten into the hardest-hit areas", he said, adding with frustration: "Very few people live to tell what it's like to experience storm surge, and unfortunately in this country we seem to not learn the lesson". It doesn't include losses covered by the National Flood Insurance Program.
Homes destroyed by Hurricane Michael are shown in this aerial photo in Mexico Beach, Fla., on October 11, 2018.
In North Carolina's mountains, motorists had to be rescued Thursday from cars trapped by high water.
After slamming Florida and lashing Georgia, Michael is now barreling through the storm-weary Carolinas. Four of them drowned, including James King of Dry Fork, Virginia. A sheriff's deputy and a local resident tried to save him after his vehicle got caught in high water, but "the floodwaters were too deep and two swift", state police said Friday.
Among those killed was a firefighter in Hanover County, Virginia, who was hit by a tractor-trailer while assisting with another accident on Interstate 295.
Some fear the toll can only rise as rescue teams reach isolated areas and work through storm debris.
More than 375 000 people up and down the Gulf Coast were ordered or urged to clear out as Michael closed in.
It was not yet known what had happened to about 280 residents of Mexico Beach who authorities said had ignored evacuation orders as the storm approached the state's northwest.
Now they have the grim task of accounting for all who stayed behind.
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Ahead of the storm's arrival, Governor Ralph Northam has declared a state of emergency in anticipation of its potential impacts. In Iredell County, one person was killed from Michael on Thursday afternoon when a tree fell on a Ford sedan.
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