If the nine-foot storm surge didn’t get them, the 150+ mph winds did.
As Michael, the third-most-powerful hurricane to ever make landfall in the Continental US, prepares to make its exit into the Atlantic Ocean on Friday, many residents of the Florida panhandle are still in shock as those who fled try to return, and those who stayed recount watching in abject horror as their community was leveled by flood waters and wind during one of the most aggressive storms in US history. In interviews with reporters who managed the difficult journey to Mexico Beach to survey the damage, many residents struggled to choke back tears as they described how they watched in abject horror as the water and wind ripped homes from their foundations. Out of the chaos, many quickly realized that Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s prophesy of “unimaginable devastation” had come to pass.
John Humphress, a storm chaser and drone pilot who spoke with the Associated Press about the damage, described the scene in Mexico Beach, Fla., what will be remembered as Hurricane Michael’s “ground zero”, in one word: “Apocalyptic.”
According to state officials, some 285 people in Mexico Beach refused to obey the mandatory evacuation order and thus obtained a front-row seat to the destruction from what some meteorologists have described as “the perfect storm.” While National Guard rescuers pushed into the storm zone on Thursday and rescued 20 survivors, the fate of dozens more remains unknown. FEMA Administration Brock Long put it best when he said the entire town of 1,100 had been “wiped out.”
First responders were forced to wait until after daylight on Thursday morning to access Mexico Beach as flooding from the storm had left it entirely cut off.
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