17 dead after Hurricane Michael batters Florida - and figure likely to rise

Hurricane Michael leaves massive destruction in the US

Hurricane Michael leaves massive destruction in the US

Food and emergency supplies had to be flown in.

It killed at least four people in Florida, five in Virginia, three in North Carolina and two in Georgia, officials said. "We need to restore basic utilities, clear our roads of trees and power lines, and assess the structural integrity of our buildings".

A little further on, and a woman, accompanied by a friend, is sifting through the remains of her home, loading what she can salvage into the boot of a vehicle.

Surging water filled their first floor, now muddy and ruined. Officials predicted rebuilding costs in the billions.

The Cooter Stew Cafe starts taking water in the town of Saint Marks as Hurricane Michael pushes the storm surge up the Wakulla and Saint Marks Rivers which come together here on October 10, 2018 in Saint Marks, Florida.

By then, 155 mile (250 kilometer) an hour winds had razed numerous homes from their foundations in Mexico Beach, a town of around 1,000 people, leaving just bare concrete slabs.

Power and cellphone service is starting to be restored in parts of Florida's storm-battered Panhandle.

Under a perfectly clear blue sky, families living along the Florida Panhandle emerged tentatively from darkened shelters and hotels to a perilous landscape of shattered homes and shopping centers, beeping security alarms, wailing sirens and hovering helicopters.

Most of Panama City's homes were still standing, but no property was left undamaged.

Although Floridians remember Hurricane Wilma for raking the state from west to east in October 2005, it's famous among meteorologists for its explosive gain of strength over the western Caribbean, shooting from tropical storm to strong Category 5 hurricane, with 185 miles per hour winds, in two days.

Hundreds of cars had broken windows.

Catastrophic scenes have emerged across the Florida Panhandle, but none perhaps worse than in Mexico Beach, described as ground zero of the devastation.

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Tyndall Air Force Base "took a beating", so much so that Col. Brian Laidlaw told the 3,600 men and women stationed on the base not to come back. Numerous 600 families who live there had followed orders to pack what they could in a single suitcase as they were evacuated before the storm. The elementary school, the flight line, the marina, the runways - all were devastated. "And we will do it together", Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum tweeted Thursday night.

This aerial photo shows debris and destruction in Mexico Beach, Fla., Friday, Oct. 12, 2018, after Hurricane Michael went through the area on Wednesday. "From satellite and radar monitoring, to computer models of track and intensity, and to dissemination of warnings by the NWS, private forecasters, the media, and local and national emergency managers, many lives were saved".

"I lost everything - my clothes, wallet, credit cards", he said.

Boston-based Karen Clark & Company, an insurance company that produces models for catastrophes is estimating Hurricane Michael caused about $8billion in insured losses. An 11-year-old girl in Georgia died when Michael's winds picked up a carport and dropped it through the roof of her grandparents' home. Two died in North Carolina when a auto smashed into a fallen tree.

U.S. authorities say at least eight people are confirmed dead in Florida, five in Virginia, three in North Carolina and one in Georgia. Four of them drowned, including James King of Dry Fork, Virginia.

"We didn't have anything", said Ruth Corley, a spokeswoman for the Bay County Sheriff's Department.

Among those killed was a firefighter in Hanover County, Virginia, who was hit by a tractor-trailer while assisting with another accident on Interstate 295.

Emergency officials said they have received thousands of calls asking about missing people.

Some fear the toll can only rise as rescue teams get around storm debris blocking roads and reach isolated areas.

Gulf Coast Regional Medical Center treated some people but the hospital evacuated 130 patients as it was dealing with its own hurricane effects.

Some counts have indicated that 285 people in Mexico Beach remained in their homes during the storm, but rescuers say almost 200 people have escaped with their lives.

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