Hurricane Michael kills 17 in USA, death toll expected to rise

Famous for staying open during natural disasters Waffle House closes 21 restaurants

U.S. media on Friday quoted authorities in Jackson County, Florida, as reporting three deaths there, bringing Michael's toll to at least 16.

The devastation inflicted by Hurricane Michael came into focus Thursday with rows upon rows of homes found smashed to pieces, and search crews began making their way into the stricken areas in hopes of accounting for hundreds of people who may have defied evacuation orders. Almost 1.4 million customers in seven states are without power, including 604,831 in North Carolina.

Michael blew ashore near Mexico Beach on Wednesday afternoon as one of the most powerful storms in USA history, with winds of up o 155 miles per hour (250 km per hour). The misery from its impact will likely linger for weeks or even months. - Almost all homes near the coast are heavily damaged or destroyed.

"For me the cotton crop is as bad as it gets". County officials say they're not releasing names or other details yet while families are notified. "Can't tell the difference between what I've picked and what I haven't". "If the house and the cars are destroyed they can be replaced, but my niece needs her dad - and as much as I sometimes can't stand him, I would do anything to just know he's OK". The wind shredded the roof of his single-story home.

Michael was one of the most powerful hurricanes to ever make landfall in the U.S. While most residents fled ahead of the storm's arrival, others stayed to face the hurricane.

About a million people remained in the dark Friday morning after Hurricane Michael left a trail of destruction that claimed at least six lives, flattened entire towns and "shattered" electrical grids.

'Do you think her body would be here?' "It was so scary you'd poo yourself", said retiree Tom Garcia, 60, who was trapped inside his Mexico Beach home as water poured in to waist height.

At least 17 people have died in the biggest storm to hit Florida since the 1800s.

Storm strengthens to hurricane, tracks away from Cayman
After four days, hurricane experts say, the system should diminish and move off the mid-Atlantic coast. Mandatory evacuations are underway for Citrus County residents living in Zone A, or in mobile homes.

Meanwhile, officials in Georgia confirmed that a second life had been lost there, after an 11-year-old girl in Seminole County was killed while in a mobile home when the wind hurled a metal carport into the air.

Five people died in Virginia. He says a firefighter also was killed when a tractor-trailer slammed into his fire truck while he was responding to a two-car crash in heavy storm conditions.

They also said that 80 percent of cellphone service has been restored throughout the region hit by Hurricane Michael. Rain got into the modest home, just north of Lynn Haven in the Panama City area, and it had started to smell of mould.

The number of dead was expected to rise, but authorities scrapped plans to set up a temporary morgue, indicating they had yet to see signs of mass casualties from the most powerful hurricane to hit the continental United States in almost 50 years.

The state mental hospital in Chattahoochee, which has a section for the criminally insane, was cut off by land, and food and supplies were being flown in, authorities said. The hospital is staying open receiving patients in an emergency room that is running on generator power.

FEMA's Long urged communities such as Mexico Beach, where many homes were obliterated by 12 to 14 feet (3.7 to 4.3 meters) of storm surge, to rebuild to withstand future storms.

Buildings in Panama City were crushed, tall pine trees were sent flying and a steeple was knocked off a church. During Wednesday's broadcast, one of the last things viewers heard was a reporter saying, "It sounds like a train is coming over the roof of the TV station". They've set up chairs and cameras in the parking lot and produced their newscasts from there.

On Tuesday, storm scientists predicted that Hurricane Michael would continue gaining strength as the cyclone approached the coast. The planet has warmed significantly over the past several decades, causing changes in the environment. Photo Courtesy of The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

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