Devastation in Florida, flooding elsewhere — WHAT'S HAPPENING

National Hurricane Center track for Hurricane Michael as of Tuesday afternoon

National Hurricane Center track for Hurricane Michael as of Tuesday afternoon

Michael's impact across the southern Mid-Atlantic states and the Carolinas, though, will be minor compared to its trail of destruction in the Florida Panhandle.

The final effects of Michael were being felt across parts of Maryland, Delaware, Virginia and North Carolina, where the National Hurricane Center warned of "life-threatening" flash flooding and "strong, possibly damaging winds".

And unless we change the rate of greenhouse gas emissions, we should expect hurricanes to intensify more rapidly in the coming decades, the scientific research group Climate Central said. "So many families have lost everything", he said. An 80-mile stretch of Interstate 10, the main east-west route along the Panhandle, is still closed because of debris.

The Category 4 hurricane's 155 miles per hour winds and storm surge lifted whole houses off their foundations and ripped roofs off hundreds of structures along the Gulf Coast. Rows and rows of other homes were rendered piles of splintered lumber. Video from a CNN helicopter Thursday revealed widespread devastation across the town of about 1,000 people.

State officials said 285 people in Mexico Beach had defied a mandatory evacuation order ahead of the storm.

Florida officials said that roughly 375,000 people have been urged or ordered to evacuate. But emergency authorities lamented that many ignored the warnings. Landlines and cellphones also were down to the complex, which has almost 1,000 residents and more than 300 staff. The worst damage - she thought - was in her yard.

Diane Farris, 57, and her son walked to a high school-turned-shelter near their home in Panama City to find about 1,100 people crammed into a space meant for about half as many. "Do you think it would have floated away?" When their house filled with surging ocean water, they fled upstairs.

"I just can't bring myself to spend that much money", she said.

Sarah had just started the sixth grade and joined the drama club and the band. I don't know where they are. "You want to check on things, and begin the recovery process", Scott said.

The storm then looks destined to move through the southeast US on Thursday as a tropical storm, bringing heavy rains to Georgia and the Carolinas, before moving back out to the Atlantic on Friday. "Historically, hurricanes that approach the Florida coast in this area tend to weaken slightly prior to landfall, but little difference in impact related to wind and storm surge is likely regardless", Kottlowski said. Among those brought to safety were nine people rescued by helicopter from a bathroom of their Panama City home after their roof collapsed, Petty Officer 3rd Class Ronald Hodges said.

Florida Governor Rick Scott told the Weather Channel the damage from Panama City down to Mexico Beach was "way worse than anybody ever anticipated". Downed power lines and twisted street signs lay all around. Roofs had been peeled off. Aluminum siding was shredded and homes were split by fallen trees.

Hundreds of cars had broken windows. A year ago the school welcomed students and families displaced by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. He imposed a curfew and asked for 50 members of the National Guard for protection.

Linda Marquardt rode out Hurricane Michael with her husband at their home in Mexico Beach. Cuban authorities said they evacuated about 400 people from low-lying areas. All phone communicaiton was cut off to the complex of almost 1,000 residents and more than 300 staff, leaving emergency radios as their only link out. She was safe until a carport came crashing through the roof. A driver in North Carolina was killed when a tree fell on his auto.

As the storm charged north, it spun off possible tornadoes and downed power lines and trees in Georgia.

In North Carolina's mountains, motorists had to be rescued Thursday from cars trapped by high water. Yet, parts of Virginia and northeastern North Carolina are still seeing unsafe wind gusts, the National Hurricane Center said. It was racing to the northeast at 24 miles per hour (39 kph) amid warnings it could spread damaging winds and more flash flooding in the region before moving offshore.

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