Hurricane Michael damage limited by preparation, forecasting

S Hurricane Michael drenches Florida Panhandle

Florida Gov. Rick Scott said state officials still "do not know enough" about the fate of those who stayed behind in the region.

Marchetti said his volunteer search teams, consisting mostly of off-duty police officers and firefighters, also had rescued or accounted for 345 others previously reported to CrowdSource Rescue since Michael struck on Wednesday. "So many families have lost everything", he said.

Southern Co's Gulf Power unit said it could take weeks to restore power in the hardest hit parts of Florida like the Panama City area.

Michael was the first storm of its magnitude to make landfall in the Panhandle since record-keeping there began in 1851.

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

"We had houses that were on one side of the street and now they're on the other", said Mayor Bo Patterson, who watched trees fly by his window as he rode out the storm in his home seven blocks from the beach.

Which areas are worst affected?

The storm, which has been downgraded to a post-tropical cyclone, was the strongest on record to hit the Florida Panhandle and the third most powerful to strike the USA mainland.

Nearly 1.1m homes and businesses were without power from Florida to Virginia early on Friday, according to utility companies.

"This is not stuff that you just put back together overnight", Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Brock Long said Thursday. Numerous most heavily-hit areas have not yet been reached, as flooding, downed power lines, trees and other debris blocking roadways are prohibiting crews' access.

Apalachicola, with 2,300 residents, was also badly affected, the mayor reporting that downed cables were making it hard to get through the town. The only way to reach some people stranded by the storm was from the air.

"To just sort of check out various neighborhoods, to try to ensure that we're not missing anybody", Gillum said.

U.S. Army personnel used heavy equipment to push a path through debris in Mexico Beach to allow rescuers through to search for trapped residents, survivors or casualties, as Blackhawk helicopters circled overhead. They're surrounded now by devastation: fishing boats and cars tossed like toys, empty slabs where people hopefully escaped before houses exploded in 155 miles per hour (249 kph) winds and were washed away by the storm surge.

And then you hear faint bleeping sounds coming from all directions - a dissonant symphony of high-pitched notes that turn out to be myriad small alarms, still transmitting their warnings from the batteries which power them.

"We were going to establish a mortuary location". "We had furniture in our house that wasn't even our furniture". This was her dream retirement place she tells me - the last four years spent doing it up. "I thought the roof was going to come off".

The sheer force of Hurricane Michael has been well analysed, but it's only when you see the everyday stuff of people's lives crushed, broken, smashed to pieces, that you realise they will be living with this long after we have gone. Those numbers are added to almost 345,000 accounts without power in Florida and 150,000 in Georgia. One person has died so far.

"Communities need to focus on building codes, building stronger and better ahead of time, so the damage is lessened after a storm hits", Kaniewski said.

Michael earlier reportedly killed at least 13 people as it passed through Central America: six in Honduras, four in Nicaragua and three in El Salvador.

Over 900 000 homes and businesses in Florida, Alabama, Georgia and the Carolinas were without power.

Early Friday morning, Michael was dropping rain along the Mid-Atlantic and New England coasts as it moves eastward over the ocean, with sustained winds that have strengthened to 65 miles per hour.

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