Hurricane Michael survivors wander debris, search for the missing

Mexico Beach Florida in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael on Oct 12 2018

Mexico Beach Florida in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael on Oct 12 2018

The hurricane hit the panhandle area with category 4 winds that caused major damage.

After slamming Florida and lashing Georgia, Michael is now barreling through the storm-weary Carolinas.

According to officials, at least 17 deaths have been confirmed in a swath of destruction stretching across the states of Florida, North Carolina, Georgia and Virginia.

Most of the search effort focused on Bay and Gulf counties, which took the brunt of the storm while Panama City and Mexico Beach, the towns nearest Michael's landfall accounted for the largest numbers reported missing, he added.

More than 375 000 people up and down the Gulf Coast were ordered or urged to clear out as Michael closed in.

It warned of damaging winds and possible flash flooding in North Carolina and states just to the north and said the storm was still packing winds of 50 miles per hour. "So many families have lost everything", he said.

DAMAGED. Boats are seen in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael on October 11, 2018, in Panama City, Florida.

"The track of the hurricane is nearly like you could name it the 'Southeast Cotton Industry Hurricane, ' because it's coming in to Panama City, and there's about 140,000 acres of cotton in the Florida Panhandle", David Ruppenicker, CEO of Southern Cotton Growers, told CNBC.

"The wind was really tearing us apart", said retiree Tom Garcia, 60, who was trapped inside his Mexico Beach home as water poured in to waist height.

Authorities have set up distribution centers to dole out food and water to victims, who just were coming to grips with the brutal realities of their situation.

"It's total devastation - no power, no water, no communication", she said.

Rescue teams, hampered by power and telephone outages, used cadaver dogs, drones and heavy equipment to hunt for hundreds of people unaccounted for in devastated communities across the Florida Panhandle. "It's not the Mexico Beach we know". "The best beach in the world".

"Hope is that even if the storm does come, even if I lose my auto, my house, my family, even if I lose my life, blessed be God", he explained.

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Raymond Cantrell, the former owner of the funeral home, spoke to Local 4 on the phone. According to inspectors numerous bodies had been decomposing for months.

Dough Shelby looks from his house to the destruction in Mexico Beach.

Michael was one of the most powerful hurricanes to ever make landfall in the US, and this Gulf Coast community of about 1,000 people was in its bullseye. Some houses were simply wiped off of their foundations, with wreckage and sand covering the ground and streets. "It's like a war zone". "How are you going to get out of here?"

"Seventy-five percent of our city is not here (destroyed)", he said.

On the left, as we walk, there's a mattress slumped at the roadside, on the right a Dean Noontz novel lies in the dirt. "You're not going to recognize Mexico Beach". "So I followed the mandatory evacuation order and left with my wife".

The deaths in Virginia include four people who drowned in separate incidents, said Mr. Northam.

"It's hard to grasp", he said. The Sheriff's Office in Gadsden County, Fla., said on Thursday that the storm had killed four people there. There were other downed trees on the hospital campus.

"Hurricane Michael arrived before most of the state farmers had started harvest for the season - specifically for pecans, peanuts and cotton", Tasnim Shamma reports from Atlanta member station WABE, for NPR's Newscast unit.

"I just need to know he's OK", McCall said. "I have seen cotton that was being harvested yesterday". This is how you deal with a storm of that magnitude.

The U.S. Coast Guard had rescued about 40 people as of 6:30 p.m. EDT Thursday and assisted 232 others, including 142 nursing home patients, according to a news release.

Even with the worst of the storm now past, flooding remains a threat, as overwhelmed river systems struggle to cope with massive amounts of water.

With a low barometric pressure recorded at 919 millibars (a measure of a hurricane's force), Michael was the third strongest storm on record to hit the United States. She was safe until a carport came crashing through the roof.

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.

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