Residents of this Florida panhandle city were busy Monday readying themselves for Hurricane Michael, which is predicted to make landfall somewhere around Panama City. Some residents with destroyed or damaged homes counted themselves lucky to have survived.
Entire blocks of homes near the beach were obliterated, reduced to concrete slabs in the sand. Most of the rain was blamed on a low-pressure system off the Pacific coast, but Hurricane Michael in the Caribbean could have also contributed.
Linda Marquardt, 67, rode out the storm with her husband at their home in Mexico Beach.
Seven people have been killed in storm-related incidents across Florida, North Carolina and Georgia, including 11-year-old Sarah Radney.
Based on its internal barometric pressure, Michael was the third most powerful hurricane to hit the USA mainland, behind the unnamed Labor Day storm of 1935 and Camille in 1969.
Search and rescue teams are still working in areas across the Florida Panhandle to reach people who are trapped.
Mexico Beach, a gorgeous beachfront city, now looks like an apocalyptic mess, according to survivors.
Below are 15 images that personify the aftermath of the Category 4 storm, which blew ashore along the Panhandle packing 155 miles per hour winds.
The Commodity Weather Group said on Sunday some oil rigs in the Gulf area may be evacuated, which may slow operations but was not likely to cause much interruption.
"We're looking at a significant storm with significant impact, possibly greater than I've seen in my 59 years of life, " Johnson said of his city on the shore of Apalachicola Bay, which where about 90 percent of Florida's oysters are harvested.
At Jinks Middle School in Panama City, the storm peeled back part of the gym roof and tore off one wall, leaving the wooden floor covered in water.
After hitting Florida, Michael will move north-eastward across the southeastern part of the country Wednesday night and Thursday, according to the NHC. Minutes earlier, Michael's eyewall came ashore between Panama City and St. Vincent Island, and the hurricane center warned everyone inside the relative calm of the eye not to venture outside. With just a month to go before Election Day, voters were also given one more day to register to vote, once offices reopen after the storm.
"I have had employees going to the communities where our kids live, going door to door and checking", Principal Britt Smith by phone.
By 2 p.m. EDT (1600 GMT), the storm had pushed northeast to within 25 miles (40 km) of Greensboro, North Carolina, carrying 50-mph (85-kph) winds, the NHC said. He said people will "not be dragged out of their homes, " but anyone who stays behind will be on their own once the storm hits.
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.
Mexico Beach is a small tourist town toward the center of Florida's panhandle.
Michael pummeled communities across the Panhandle and turned streets into roof-high waterways. By 8 a.m. Tuesday, top winds had reached 100 miles per hour (155 kph), and it was forecast to strengthen more, with winds topping 111 miles per hour (179 kph), capable of causing devastating damage.
"There are so many downed power lines and trees that it's nearly impossible to get through the city", Apalachicola Mayor Van Johnson said.
Brad Rippey, a meteorologist for the U.S. Agriculture Department, said Michael severely damaged cotton, timber, pecan and peanut crops, causing estimated liabilities as high as $1.9 billion and affecting up to 3.7 million crop acres (1.5 million hectares).
The tropical storm is expected to swell into a Category 1 hurricane as soon as Monday night as it rolls into the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, with winds of 70 miles per hour, forecasters said.
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