Meter-high tidal waves, powerful gusts of wind, pouring rain: Hurricane “Michael” hit Florida with force and created extreme weather chaos and destruction in the northwest of the US.
The National Hurricane Center spoke of a record-breaking storm in the region, with the exact magnitude of the impact on Thursday still unclear. The day before “Michael” hit the coast with wind speeds of 250 kilometers per hour.
At least one person died according to US media reports. The station CNN reported, citing the police, near Greensboro, a man had been killed when a tree fell on a house. In hundreds of thousands of households the electricity was cut off. Florida Governor Rick Scott had search and rescue teams move out into the worst affected areas. Representative Neal Dunn from Panama City told CNN, “It looks like a bomb has exploded in every single block.”
When “Michael” hit the coast northwest of the small town of Mexico Beach on Wednesday afternoon (local time), the storm only needed two miles per hour of wind speed to be ranked fifth in the highest category. Shots from Mexico Beach showed widespread destruction, flooding and debris. Pictures of the city of Panama City Beach also showed tattered remains of houses, covered roofs and fallen trees.
Meteorologist Dennis Feltgen, of the National Hurricane Center, said it was the biggest hurricane since the weather records hit Florida’s panhandle. As Panhandle (landing tip or literally Pfannenstiel) is called the northwestern tip of Florida.
“Michael” had gained tremendous strength in the past few days. The authorities urged hundreds of thousands of people to leave the affected area. But many did not follow suit. Florida Governor Scott said he was disappointed.
Missy Theiss lives eight kilometers from the coast of Panama City Beach. The 54-year-old decided to stay in her house with her husband, daughter and two dogs. “I look out the window and it seems as if I lived in a war zone,” wrote Theiss in a text message to the German Press Agency. “It was the worst decision to stay here. We did it for our pets, “she explained. She thought “Michael” would reach the coast as a level two hurricane, but then he was upgraded to category four.
“When we thought about leaving, it was already too late. We were very scared, we did not want something bad to happen, “Theiss described her difficult situation. She found protection in the hallway of her house, away from windows and doors.
As it moved northeast, the hurricane weakened into a tropical cyclone, but remained dangerous. Late Wednesday night (local time) he moved through the south of the state of Georgia. The hurricane center warned of flooding by heavy rains in parts of Georgia, South and North Carolina and southeast Virginia. In some areas there were Tornadowarnungen.
US President Donald Trump began his speech at an election campaign that evening to express his sympathy to the people in the affected areas. The “thoughts and prayers” of the entire nation are with them. Trump had previously stated that he did not want to cancel the campaign rally because he did not want to disappoint the people who had been waiting for it.
The President announced that he would visit the disaster area on Sunday or Monday. On a previous visit, he worries about getting in the way of helpers, Trump said.
“Michael” is not the first hurricane to bring destruction to the US Southeast Coast this year. By mid-September, “Florence” had caused severe flooding, particularly in North and South Carolina. Unlike “Michael”, however, the storm was only landed as category one on land – with wind speeds of 150 kilometers per hour.
Dozens of people were killed by “Florence” and the consequences of the storm. Civil Protection Agency Fema warned that “Michael” will also bring heavy rain to North and South Carolina – although the water of “Florence” has not yet completely drained there.