Horrifying drone footage shows Hurricane Michael’s path of destruction across Florida as authorities confirm the devastating storm has killed seven people, including an 11-year-old girl.
The storm caused ‘catastrophic damage’ at the Tyndall Air Force, which sits on the shoreline between Panama City and Mexico Beach, a small community which was almost completely destroyed.
Footage from the drone shows damage to nearly every home on the base. Buildings were left completely destroyed and a parking lot was filled with overturned RVs and trucks.
An F-15 fighter jet on display at the base’s entrance was torn from its base and flipped upside down. The base’s aircraft, which include F-22 Raptors, were flown hundreds of miles away as a precaution. Forecasters predicted 9 to 14 feet of water at Tyndall.
Air Force officials said the base has ‘sustained extensive damage and has been closed until further notice’. The base’s 600 families evacuated the area on Monday. No injuries have been reported there as of Thursday evening.
Col Brian Laidlaw, 325th Fighter Wing commander, wrote on Facebook: ‘We are actively developing plans to reunite families and plan to provide safe passage back to base housing.’
The storm has claimed the lives of seven people across Florida, North Carolina and Georgia, including 11-year-old Sarah Radney.
Five people were killed in Florida after the storm devastated the state’s Panhandle.
A man died in a storm-related traffic accident in North Carolina on Thursday.
Authorities said the death toll is likely to rise.
More than 1.2 million homes and businesses were without power from Florida to Virginia on Thursday because of the storm.
The number of people in emergency shelters was expected to swell to 20,000 across five states by Friday, said Brad Kieserman of the American Red Cross.
Meteorologists watched satellite imagery in complete awe as the storm intensified.
‘We are in new territory,’ National Hurricane Center Meteorologist Dennis Feltgen wrote on Facebook. ‘The historical record, going back to 1851, finds no Category 4 hurricane ever hitting the Florida panhandle.’
Based on its internal barometric pressure, Michael was the third most powerful hurricane to hit the US mainland, behind the unnamed Labor Day storm of 1935 and Camille in 1969.
Based on wind speed, it was the fourth-strongest, behind the Labor Day storm (184mph), Camille and Andrew in 1992.
Boston-based Karen Clark & Company, an insurance company that produces models for catastrophes is estimating Hurricane Michael caused about $8billion in insured losses.
The company released the estimate Thursday. It includes the privately insured wind and storm surge damage to residential, commercial and industrial properties and automobiles.
But the figure does not include losses covered by the National Flood Insurance Program.
KCC estimates that nearly half of insured loss from Michael occurred in Florida’s Bay and Gulf counties.
Total damages from storm surge are estimated to be $3.7billion, of which about ten per cent will be insured.
Georgia’s Department of Agriculture is coordinating efforts to assist recovery in Southwest and Central Georgia, areas most affected by the hurricane.
Commissioner Gary W. Black, in a news release Thursday, said crops, animals and infrastructure have all taken a substantial loss because of the storm.
Black says poultry contributes $23.3billion to Georgia’s economy and has reported the most widespread power outages and losses.
He says 84 chicken houses, estimated to have held more than 2 million chickens, were destroyed.
The farms, dairies and processing plants affected were in Appling, Colquitt, Coffee, Decatur, Evans, Houston, Mitchell, Randolph, Lee and Wilcox counties.
Damaging winds also drove much of the cotton crop to the ground for a total loss or tangled it, making it harder to extract clean lint during the ginning process. Assessments for peanuts and pecans are ongoing.
The devastation inflicted by Hurricane Michael came into focus Thursday with rows upon rows of homes found smashed to pieces, and rescue crews struggling to make their way into the stricken areas in hopes of accounting for hundreds of people who may have stayed behind.
Though reduced to a tropical storm, it brought flash flooding to North Carolina and Virginia, soaking areas still recovering from Hurricane Florence.
Under a clear blue sky, families living along the Florida Panhandle emerged from shelters and hotels to a perilous landscape of shattered homes and shopping centers, beeping security alarms, wailing sirens and hovering helicopters.
Gov Rick Scott said the Panhandle woke up to ‘unimaginable destruction’.
‘So many lives have been changed forever. So many families have lost everything,’ he said.
The full extent of Michael’s fury was only slowly becoming clear, with some of the hardest-hit areas difficult to reach because of roads blocked by debris or water.
An 80-mile stretch of Interstate 10, the main east-west route along the Panhandle, was closed.
Some of the worst damage was in Mexico Beach, where the hurricane crashed ashore Wednesday as a Category 4 monster with 155mph winds and a storm surge of 9 feet.
Video from a drone revealed widespread devastation across the town of about 1,000 people.
Entire blocks of homes near the beach were obliterated, reduced to concrete slabs in the sand.
Other homes were turned into piles of splintered lumber or were crumpled and slumped at odd angles. Entire roofs were torn away and dropped onto a road.
State officials said 285 people in Mexico Beach had defied a mandatory evacuation order ahead of the storm.
National Guard troops made their way into the ground-zero town and found 20 survivors Wednesday night, and more rescue crews were pushing into the area, with the fate of many residents unknown.
Mishelle McPherson and her ex-husband searched for the elderly mother of a friend.
The woman lived in a small cinderblock house about 150 yards from the Gulf and thought she would be OK. The home was found smashed, with no sign of the woman.
‘Do you think her body would be here? Do you think it would have floated away?’ McPherson asked.
As thousands of National Guard troops, law enforcement officers and medical teams fanned out, the governor pleaded with people in the devastated areas to stay away for now because of hazards that included fallen trees and power lines.
‘I know you just want to go home. You want to check on things and begin the recovery process,’ Scott said. But ‘we have to make sure things are safe.’
The Coast Guard said it rescued at least 27 people before and after the hurricane came ashore, mostly from homes along the Florida coastline, and searched for more victims.
Among those brought to safety were nine people rescued by helicopter from a bathroom of their home in hard-hit Panama City after their roof collapsed, Petty Officer 3rd Class Ronald Hodges said.
A dramatic video shows the moment members of the United States Coast Guard rescues a trapped woman in Florida.
An MH-65 Dolphin helicopter and crew rushed to Panama City on Wednesday to rescue the unidentified woman after she survived the devastation Hurricane Michael.
In the video, a member of the Coast Guard is lowered down to the ground.
A few moments later, a rescue basket is also lowered as the woman is located and helped inside.
She’s then lifted back into the helicopter followed by the first responder who rescued her.
The woman was then transported to a hospital.
The rescue came just hours after Hurricane Michael ripped through Florida’s Panhandle, nearly wiping out Panama City and Mexico Beach.
In Panama City, most homes were still standing, but no property was left undamaged. Downed power lines lay nearly everywhere. Roofs had been peeled off and carried away.
Aluminum siding was shredded to ribbons. Homes were split open by fallen trees.
Hundreds of cars had broken windows. Twisted street signs lay on the ground. Pine trees were stripped and snapped off about 20 feet high.
In nearby Panama City Beach, Bay County Sheriff Tommy Ford reported widespread looting of homes and businesses.
He imposed a curfew and asked for 50 members of the National Guard for protection.
The hurricane also damaged hospitals and nursing homes in the Panama City area, and officials worked to evacuate hundreds of patients.
The damage at Bay Medical Sacred Heart included blown-out windows, a cracked exterior wall and a roof collapse in a maintenance building. No patients were hurt, the hospital said.
The state mental hospital in Chattahoochee, which has a section for the criminally insane, was cut off by land, and food and supplies were being flown in, authorities said.
Landlines and cellphones also were down to the complex, which has nearly 1,000 residents and more than 300 staff. They relied on emergency radios to make contact with first responders.
About two million ready-to-eat meals, one million gallons of water and 40,000 10-pound bags of ice are ready for distribution in Florida.
As the storm made its way inland, it caused havoc in Georgia, spinning off possible tornadoes and taking down power lines and trees.
Forecasters said it could drop up to seven inches of rain over the Carolinas and Virginia before pushing out to sea Thursday night.
In North Carolina’s mountains, motorists had to be rescued from cars trapped by high water.
‘For North Carolina, Michael isn’t as bad as Florence, but it adds unwelcome insult to injury, so we must be on alert,’ Gov Roy Cooper said.
Fast-moving Michael left North Carolina behind with rivers rising and more than 600,000 households in the dark.
Cooper’s office said the power outages were concentrated in central North Carolina’s Piedmont region, as trees and power lines toppled under the pressure of winds of up to 60mph.
Flash flooding was snarling the state’s two largest cities, Charlotte and Raleigh, as well as the university town of Chapel Hill.
Dozens of swift water rescues and evacuations were needed in the Piedmont region as well as the state’s mountains and foothills.
More than 330,000 people in Virginia were left without power, more than 310,000 in Florida, almost 190,000 in Georgia, almost 27,000 in Alabama and almost 16,000 in South Carolina, local utilities reported.
Authorities said it would likely be a while before all power was restored.
More than 375,000 people up and down the Gulf Coast were ordered or urged to clear out as Michael closed in.
But emergency authorities lamented that many people ignored the warnings.
‘Why people didn’t evacuate is something we should be studying,’ said Craig Fugate, former director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and a former Florida state emergency management chief. ‘Is there more the government can do? But we ask that every time.’
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.