FLORIDA, U.S. - Becoming one of the four most powerful hurricanes to strike the U.S. ever, Hurricane Michael's short but deadly assault became more evident as it raced through the Southeast, before weakening to a tropical storm and blew out to sea early on Friday.
According to rescue teams, the hurricane wrecked a devastating blow across Florida Panhandle, obliterating entire oceanfront communities, causing catastrophic damage to an Air Force base, and leaving at least six people dead before continuing towards the Carolinas.
By Thursday, Michael was downgraded to a tropical storm, and headed towards the northeast through Georgia and the Carolinas, making its way into the Atlantic Ocean.
Several volunteer teams joined the search and rescue efforts, with reports quoting officials and volunteers as saying that the Tiny Mexico Beach in Florida, which houses about 1,000 residents, was almost destroyed by the storm.
At the time that Michael passed through the seaside enclave, it was packing 155 mph winds, just 1 mph short of a Category 5 storm.
It managed to shred houses, trees, power lines, and everything in its path, leaving piles of debris strewn across the streets, including cars and boats.
In a statement, William “Brock” Long, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency said, “This is not stuff that you just put back together overnight."
As Michael approached earlier this week, official states of emergency were declared in Alabama, Georgia and as far north as the Carolinas and Virginia.
These states, dealing with the devastating loss caused by floods of Hurricane Florence, suffered more devastation, as Michael arrived.
Late on Thursday, power lines were wrecked across the Southeast and hundreds of thousands of people remained without power.
According to officials, some areas were cut off over 24 hours after Michael made landfall, with roads blocked by massive trees and cellphone service being knocked out.
In cities in Virginia that are along the North Carolina border and in the central part of the state, rain and wind brought by the storm caused flooding and power outages.
According to an update released by the Department of Emergency Management in the state, nearly 145,000 Virginians were without power Thursday evening.
Officials said that the Panhandle had witnessed unprecedented damage.
Not only did the hurricane wash away entire neighbourhoods and communities, but it also pummeled the Tyndall Air Force Base, which is set directly on the shoreline between Panama City and Mexico Beach.
Officials at the airbase said in a statement that Michael caused “widespread roof damage to nearly every home and leaving the base closed until further notice."
On Monday, about 600 families at the base had been evacuated, and many were taken to shelters to ride out the storm.
Officials confirmed that no injuries had been reported there by Thursday night.
However, in all there other areas ravage by the storm, rescuers continued to search for survivors and victims of the storm and authorities warned that the death toll could rise.
Further, local reports noted that the catastrophic hurricane killed at least 11 people in three states and raced through the Southeast as quickly as it arrived. The total number dead though by Friday, had risen to 17.
Brock Long, the administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency said, “I expect the fatality count to come up today. I expect it to come up tomorrow, as well, as we get through the debris. Hopefully, it doesn’t rise dramatically, but it is a possibility.”
While Lt. Anglie Hightower, a spokeswoman for the sheriff’s office confirmed four deaths in Gadsden County, west of Tallahassee, the Virginia Department of Emergency Management said five people in the state had died from the storm.
Meanwhile, Chad Smith, the coroner of Seminole County, Ga. confirmed that an 11-year-old girl, Sarah Radney, was killed on Wednesday.
By Friday the death toll had risen to seventeen.