Hurricane Michael Obliterates Mexico Beach, Florida

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TALLAHASSEE — From the sky, Thursday began like any other day in paradise: a warm October sun striking the Florida coastline.

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Even before Michael made full landfall, it was whipping trees with its winds and had caused flooding in the town of Apalachicola, where more than five feet of water was reported, and in Port St. Joe.

While prediction of a storm's path has grown increasingly accurate, the ability to predict rapid intensification has lagged somewhat, said Haiyan Jiang, an associate professor in the department of earth and environment at Florida International University.

In a tweet Thursday morning, Sen.

CNN's @BrookeBCNN is in a helicopter flying over Mexico Beach, Florida, getting a look at one of the hardest hit areas from Hurricane Michael: "It's gone... it's obliterated..."

Nearly 850,000 homes and businesses in the U.S. Southeast were without power on Thursday, according to local power companies, as the remnants of Hurricane Michael headed northeast over the Carolinas after battering the Florida Panhandle.

Michael isn't alone. 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 the Baja California Peninsula on a path across Mexico to the southern U.S. Plains and the Ozarks by the weekend.

A day Michael made landfall as a deadly Category 4 hurricane, 10Weather is already monitoring a new tropical disturbance in the west-central Caribbean Sea. But Michael is still boasting winds of 50 miles per hour (80 kph), according to the National Hurricane Center (NHC).

At landfall, it was almost a Category 5 storm that smashed records as the strongest ever to roar onto the state's exposed Panhandle.

Patricia Mulligan said she survived Hurricane Andrew in 1992, only to encounter the wrath of another storm Wednesday.

4 P.M. What the Hurricane Center has been predicting has come to pass - Hurricane Michael has strengthened into a major hurricane.

Gov. Rick Scott said search and rescue efforts would be "aggressive".

"I didn't expect all this", said Bill Manning, 63, a grocery clerk who left his camper van in Panama City, Florida, to move into a hotel where the power was already out, Reuters reported. He spent the early part of the morning making national television appearances. "We know many people have been injured".

Asked if there would be more evacuation orders, he said officials were monitoring the situation but that people in potentially affected areas should not take any chances against such a large storm surge.

Smith, in Gadsden County, said the situation was unsafe even for emergency personnel. "Fatalities may be realized". The U.S. Coast Guard ran 10 rescue missions into the region Wednesday night. Search and rescue teams have moved into Panam City, Mexico Beach, Tyndall, Alligator Point and Carrabelle. It was expected to blow ashore around midday Wednesday near Panama City Beach, along a lightly populated stretch of fishing villages and white-sand spring-break beaches. Where homes once stood, offering premium views of the Gulf of Mexico, a few boards lay scattered across foundations. Gulf Coast Hospital moved out 145. "But after that we need to plan for the longer term in a way that acknowledges the combined impact [that] greenhouse gas emissions and other human factors (like urbanization near coasts) have on increasing our future risk to hurricanes".

More than 400,000 utility customers remained without power Thursday morning as thousands of rescue and utility crew members spread out across coastal and rural Panhandle communities to respond to the devastation inflicted by Hurricane Michael. The facilitys 1,400 patients and staff had no electricity, water or ways to communicate with the outside world. The storm could leave wide swaths of the region powerless for weeks, he said.

Tallahassee, a city of 200,000, sits 100 miles east of Panama City.

Pre-landfall, just 3,500 people were counted in shelters. Be safe and listen to the advice of emergency officials.