MIAMI (AP) — Florida’s Panhandle is littered with evidence that Hurricane Michael is one of the most powerful storms ever to hit the mainland United States. Roofs and awnings are peeled from buildings, pieces of homes are scattered amid snapped trees and downed power lines, chunks of beaches are washed away. Michael thrashed Georgia as a hurricane and eventually weakened to a tropical storm early Thursday as it moved into the Carolinas, soaking areas that got swamped last month by Hurricane Florence.
BY THE NUMBERS
— Hurricane history: first Category 4 hurricane to make landfall in Florida’s Panhandle since record-keeping began in 1851.
— Top winds: 155 mph (250 kph), strong enough to completely destroy homes and cause weekslong power outages.
— Powerful pressure: 919 millibars minimum pressure in the eye, the third most intense hurricane landfall in the U.S. in recorded history.
— High water: estimated peak storm surge of 9 feet (2.75 meters) and 14 feet (4.25 meters) from Mexico Beach east through Apalachee Bay, according to the National Hurricane Center
— Storm riders: Roughly 375,000 people in Florida warned to evacuate; many refused, including 285 people in Mexico Beach where Michael made landfall.
— Rescued: 47 helped out of hard-hit areas along Florida’s coastline, and 20 people in flooded neighborhoods in North Carolina.
— Staying safe: nearly 6,700 people took refuge in 54 shelters in Florida.
— Power outages: Roughly a million customers in Georgia, Florida, Alabama and South Carolina without power.
— Food and water: 2 million ready-to-eat meals, 1 million gallons (3.75 million liters) of water and 40,000 10-pound (4.5-kilogram) bags of ice ready for distribution in Florida.
— The human cost: A man in Gadsden County, Florida, killed by a falling tree, and an 11-year-old girl in Seminole County, Georgia, killed when a carport blew through the roof of her home.
IMAGES of DESTRUCTION
Images captured by Associated Press journalists show how Florida residents took shelter while waters were rising ahead of Michael’s landfall.
The largest hospitals in Panama City shut down and evacuated hundreds of patients due to heavy hurricane damage. Bay Medical Sacred Heart was moving about 200 patients from buildings with blown-out windows, a cracked exterior wall and a collapsed roof.
A federal judge rejected a push by Democrats to extend Florida’s voter registration deadline, which was Tuesday. Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner told local election supervisors that if their offices were closed due to the hurricane, they could accept paper applications when their offices reopen.
SNAPSHOTS OF SURVIVORS
People in the crosshairs had to make last-minute preparations for the monstrous storm’s arrival — and for how to cope in its aftermath.
Michael isn’t alone. The National Hurricane Center says Hurricane Leslie and Tropical Storm Nadine are no threat to land over the open Atlantic Ocean, but Tropical Storm Sergio in the Pacific is blowing toward Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula.
RECORDING THE DAMAGE
Associated Press journalists watched Michael roll ashore from hotels in Panama City and Panama City Beach. The winds ripped off hotel awnings, shattered glass doors, blew down fences and stirred up white caps in swimming pools.
The Gulf of Mexico gave Michael exactly what it needed to bulk up into a monster: The water was 4 to 5 degrees F (2.2 to 2.8 degrees C) warmer than normal, and high-atmosphere winds that can disrupt a hurricane were quiet. Michael’s wind speed increased by 72 percent in less than 33 hours.
Meteorologists use central pressure readings to gauge a hurricane’s strength — the lower the pressure, the stronger the storm. Michael was more intense at landfall than hurricanes Andrew, Katrina and Maria. Only the 1935 Labor Day hurricane in the Florida Keys and Hurricane Camille in 1969 were stronger.
Michael is shaking up the upcoming election in the battleground state of Florida. The hurricane has given national exposure to Republican Gov. Rick Scott, who is trying to unseat Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum , the Democrat running against Republican Ron DeSantis. The publicity could backfire if recovery is delayed ahead of Election Day. President Donald Trump has endorsed Scott and DeSantis.