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Sunrise reveals scenes of Hurricane Michael's devastation in Florida's Panhandle; at least 2 dead

Jenny Jarvie and Matt Pearce, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

PANAMA CITY, Fla. -- Morning light Thursday offered a fresh look at the devastation that Hurricane Michael brought to Florida's Panhandle, where hundreds of thousands of people lost power and communities were devastated by the storm's intense winds and coastal floods.

At least two people in the region were reported killed by trees that fell on their homes after Michael's hurricane-force winds pummeled the area.

Florida Republican Gov. Rick Scott said a "massive" effort was underway to clear roads that had been blocked by fallen trees, branches and power lines, hampering the ground response as aerial and water rescue crews made contact with hard-to-reach areas devastated by the storm.

Tyndall Air Force Base took a "direct hit" from Michael's Category 4 hurricane winds of up to 155 mph, which caused significant structural damage and left the runway's use still in question, Air Force officials said in a statement. The base had been evacuated before the storm and no injuries were reported.

After initially maintaining hurricane strength while barreling inland through Georgia, Michael had weakened to tropic storm status by Thursday morning while churning northeast over South Carolina with maximum winds of 50 mph.

The storm was on track to make an expected exit into the Atlantic Ocean by Friday morning, with some parts of Virginia and North Carolina expected to see as much as nine inches of rain, bringing the likelihood for dangerous flooding.

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But Michael's quick progress means it won't have a chance to trigger the same widespread, epic flooding as past slow-moving hurricanes such as Florence and Harvey, which unleashed seemingly endless rains after stalling and hovering inland.

Some of the most concerning scenes of devastation could be seen in the air base's neighboring coastal communities of Panama City and Mexico Beach.

CNN video taken from a helicopter above Mexico Beach on Thursday morning showed entire blocks of structures that had been washed away by the storm surge that put the community underwater.

A few houses were still standing, though some larger structures had their roofs torn off by the winds. Roads and yards were covered in sand that the waters had brought ashore.

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