Hurricane Michael: More deaths likely as storm wreaks havoc on Florida

Inmates in Walton County Florida volunteered Thursday to help clear debris Hurricane Michael left in the Euchee Valley

Florida's glittering Emerald Coast will be missing much of its lustre for the next few months in the wake of devastating Hurricane Michael, which scored a massive direct hit on the north-west part of the Sunshine State on Wednesday. "This is obviously the worst", said Stephanie Palmer, a FEMA firefighter and rescuer from Coral Springs, Florida.

Twenty miles (32km) south of Mexico Beach, floodwaters were more than 7 feet (2.1 meters) deep near Apalachicola, a town of about 2,300 residents, hurricane center chief Ken Graham said. Patterson estimated 1,000 homes were completely or partially destroyed in his town of 3,500 people.

It said there were still people stuck in flooded areas, or cut off by fallen trees.

There was extensive destruction around Panama City.

"I have had employees going to the communities where our kids live, going door to door and checking", said Principal Britt Smith by phone. "So far, everybody seems to be very safe".

One of the strongest hurricanes to ever hit the United States has left a path of devastation across Florida, including at least two deaths. "If Hurricane Michael moves that algae onto land, it gets spread out, it doesn't get sustained", Frank Muller-Karger, professor of biological oceanography at the University of Maryland, told Bloomberg.

The storm packed 155-mile-per-hour winds when it came ashore, and also pushed a wall of ocean water into the Florida coast.

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It was still toppling trees with 50-mph (80-kph) winds and bringing life-threatening flash flooding to areas of Georgia and Virginia, still recovering from Hurricane Florence as it marched northeast.

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) said: "The center of Michael will move through eastern Georgia into central SC this morning". About 359,000 customers in Florida were in the dark early Thursday, according to the state's emergency management agency. The storm is moving relatively quickly, at 21 m.p.h., and is expected to speed up as it crosses into the Carolinas on Thursday and blows out to sea by early Friday.

Rick Scott said both hospitals in Panama City are destroyed.

Mr Long said several hospitals in the Panhandle were hit by the hurricane and patients had to be evacuated.

On Thursday morning, some 830,000 homes were reported to be without power as a result of the damage.

Prior to making landfall in the USA, flooding from Michael had already led to at least 13 deaths in Nicaragua, Honduras and El Salvador.

Michael also disrupted energy operations in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico as it approached land, cutting crude oil production by more than 40 percent and natural gas output by almost one-third as offshore platforms were evacuated.

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