MIAMI — Tropical Storm Michael has sped off toward the Atlantic Ocean, but there will be nothing quick about Florida’s recovery from the hurricane, where rows upon rows of homes have been smashed to pieces. The storm also has brought flash flooding to hurricane-weary parts of the Carolinas and Virginia.
BY THE NUMBERS
- Hurricane history: first Category 4 hurricane to make landfall in Florida’s Panhandle since record-keeping began in 1851.
- Top winds: 155 mph (250 kph), strong enough to completely destroy homes and cause weekslong power outages.
- Powerful pressure: 919 millibars minimum pressure in the eye, the third most intense hurricane landfall in the U.S. in recorded history.
- High water: estimated peak storm surge of 9 feet (2.75 meters) and 14 feet (4.25 meters) from Mexico Beach east through Apalachee Bay, according to the National Hurricane Center.
- Storm riders: Roughly 375,000 people in Florida warned to evacuate; many refused, including 285 people in Mexico Beach where Michael made landfall.
- Rescued: 47 helped out of hard-hit areas along Florida’s coastline, and 20 people in flooded neighborhoods in North Carolina.
- Staying safe: nearly 6,700 people took refuge in 54 shelters in Florida.
- Power outages: Roughly a million customers in Georgia, Florida, Alabama and South Carolina lost power.
- Food and water: 2 million ready-to-eat meals, 1 million gallons (3.75 million liters) of water and 40,000 10-pound (4.5-kilogram) bags of ice ready for distribution in Florida.
- The human cost: Falling trees killed a man in Iredell County, North Carolina; an 11-year-old girl in Seminole County, Georgia, was killed when a carport blew through the roof of her home; four people were killed in Gadsden County, Florida, near Tallahassee; and Virginia had five storm related deaths, including a man who was swept away from his vehicle.
- Damage estimates: Boston-based Karen Clark & Company, an insurance company that produces models for catastrophes, is estimating Hurricane Michael caused about $8 billion in insured losses. It includes the privately insured wind and storm surge damage to residential, commercial and industrial properties and automobiles. The figure does not include losses covered by the National Flood Insurance Program.
One of the hardest-hit spots in Florida is Mexico Beach , where Michael crashed ashore. In a beach town home about 1,200 people, entire blocks of homes have been reduced to nothing but concrete slabs in the sand or piles of splintered lumber.
Michael left North Carolina behind with rivers rising and more than 530,000 households in the dark. The power outages were concentrated in central North Carolina’s Piedmont region, where motorists had to be rescued Thursday from cars trapped by high water. Flashing flooding also was reported in the big North Carolina cities of Charlotte and Raleigh. Similar scenes played out in parts of Virginia as the storm raced seaward.
The largest hospitals in Panama City shut down and evacuated hundreds of patients due to heavy hurricane damage. Bay Medical Sacred Heart was moving about 200 patients from buildings with blown-out windows, a cracked exterior wall and a collapsed roof. State officials say Florida’s largest psychiatric hospital has been “entirely cut off.” Florida State Hospital in Chattahoochee has been running on emergency generators. A helicopter dropped water and food at the facility on Thursday after a tree downed during the storm caused a water line to break.
The commander of Tyndall Air Force Base says the “base took a beating” from Hurricane Michael and will require “extensive cleanup and repairs.” Col. Brian Laidlaw told the 3,600 airmen stationed at the base just east of Panama City that he won’t ask them or their families to return until their safety is guaranteed.
Georgia’s Department of Agriculture Commissioner Gary W. Black said crops, animals and infrastructure have all taken a substantial loss because of the storm. Black says poultry contributes $23.3 billion to Georgia’s economy and has reported the most widespread power outages and losses. Intense winds also hurt cotton crops.
DON’T RETURN YET
U.S. Federal Emergency Management Administrator Brock Long warned residents of the hardest hit area not to go back yet. He says it’s still too dangerous in Bay County, Florida, where the hurricane made landfall.
The Environmental Protection Agency says there were no reports of oil spills or other hazardous materials, as occurred during Hurricane Harvey last year in Houston and Hurricane Florence last month in the Carolinas. But boil water advisories are in effect in about eight locations impacted by Hurricane Michael.
‘SHE LIT UP EVERYTHING’
The parents of an 11-year-old Georgia girl who was killed after being hit in the head by a portable structure that crashed into her grandparents’ home say Sarah Radney “lit up everything.” Roy and Amber Rodney said their daughter loved to perform. The sixth-grader recently was in a school play and started playing trumpet in her school band.
Broadcast news organizations faced challenges in getting reporters to Mexico Beach, the city hardest hit by the hurricane. Roads were impassable and some reporters had been pulled out of the town in advance of the storm because of safety fears.
Michael isn’t alone. The National Hurricane Center says Hurricane Leslie and Tropical Storm Nadine are no threat to land over the open Atlantic Ocean, but Tropical Storm Sergio in the Pacific is blowing toward Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula.