About a million people remained in the dark this morning after Hurricane Michael left a trail of destruction that claimed at least six lives, flattened entire towns and “shattered” electrical grids.
The scenes were familiar across communities in Florida and Georgia: uprooted trees cracked like toothpicks, buildings with roofs peeled off, homes flattened into an unrecognizable landscape.
As dawn broke in Albany, Georgia, residents arose to find trees sticking out of houses and blocking 100 intersections. The entire town is without power sending residents as far away to Columbus, Georgia (90 miles away) just to get generators and gas.
Mexico Beach, Florida looked as if a bomb had gone off as residents emerged to tally their losses. Twenty-three miles up the coast in Panama City, blocks of beachfront homes were obliterated and debris lay strewn aside overturned vehicles.
There were at least 6 confirmed fatalities as of this morning, including a Florida man killed by a tree that crashed through his roof, a North Carolina man also struck by a fallen tree, and an 11-year-old Georgia girl who died when a carport rammed the family’s modular home.
Assessments by Georgia’s Department of Agriculture show incredible losses to the state’s crops, animals and infrastructure.
Georgia’s $23.3 billion poultry industry was hit hard after 84 chicken houses, estimated to have held more than 2 million chickens, were destroyed. Damaging winds annihilated much of the state’s cotton crop or tangled it, making it harder to extract clean lint during the ginning process.
Boston-based insurance company Karen Clark & Company is estimating Hurricane Michael caused about $8 billion in insured losses. Total damages from storm surge are estimated to be $3.7 billion, of which about ten percent will be insured.
Emergency management officials are urging residents to stay off the streets until utility crews and other service providers finish clearing away hazardous obstacles
Florida Senator Marco Rubio said restoring power was going to be “long & difficult” as the storm “shredded” its electric grid. He expected it to take several days before crews could even get to work on bringing Floridians out of the dark due to the immense cleanup that needs to take place.
Officials estimate that it could take days or even weeks to restore power in some areas.
Hurricane Michael was the fourth-most powerful storm to make landfall in the U.S. when measuring by wind, which topped out at 155 mph, and the third-most powerful in terms of pressure, at 919 mb.
Michael was the first storm of its magnitude to make landfall in the Panhandle since record-keeping there began in 1851.