Natural disasters: Storms

Hurricane kills 2, weakens to tropical storm

Hurricane Michael left a trail of damaged boats in a marina in Panama City, Florida, after it made landfall on Wednesday. It battered the city for nearly three hours and roads were made virtually impassable.
Hurricane Michael left a trail of damaged boats in a marina in Panama City, Florida, after it made landfall on Wednesday. It battered the city for nearly three hours and roads were made virtually impassable.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Raging Michael most intense hurricane to strike Florida since records started in 1851

PANAMA CITY (United States) • Hurricane Michael weakened to a tropical storm yesterday after wreaking havoc along Florida's Gulf Coast, flooding homes and streets, ripping away roofs and snapping trees and power lines as it roared ashore as a raging Category 4 hurricane.

Two deaths were blamed on the hurricane - one in Florida and one in Georgia as the storm raced across the neighbouring state, heading to the north-east.

Florida officials said the hurricane, packing winds of 250kmh, was the most powerful storm to hit the state's Panhandle area since record-keeping began more than a century ago. It was also one of the most powerful hurricanes ever to hit the United States.

Michael remained dangerous even though it weakened over the course of Wednesday afternoon and evening.

By midnight on Wednesday, it was downgraded to a tropical storm as it barrelled across central Georgia, still dumping torrential rain and packing fierce 96kmh winds.

On its current track, it is headed for the Carolinas, where cities and towns are still recovering from Hurricane Florence last month.

In Florida, pictures and videos from Mexico Beach - a community of about 1,000 people where the hurricane made landfall around midday Wednesday - showed scenes of devastation, with houses floating in flooded streets, some ripped from their foundations and missing roofs. Roads were filled with piles of floating debris.

After being battered for nearly three hours by strong winds and heavy rain, roads in Panama City were virtually impassable and trees, satellite dishes and traffic lights lay in the streets.

 
 
 

Nearly 370,000 people were left without power, mostly in Florida, but also Alabama and Georgia, news reports said.

Briefing President Donald Trump at the White House, Federal Emergency Management Agency chief Brock Long said Michael was the most intense hurricane to strike the Florida Panhandle since record keeping began in 1851.

Mr Ken Graham, director of the Miami-based National Hurricane Centre , said the hurricane was "unfortunately, a historical and incredibly dangerous and life-threatening situation".

At a midterm election rally in Pennsylvania on Wednesday night, Mr Trump offered his "thoughts and prayers" to those in the path of the storm and said he would be visiting Florida soon.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 12, 2018, with the headline 'Hurricane kills 2, weakens to tropical storm'. Print Edition | Subscribe