Florida authorities fielded a barrage of calls about people missing in Hurricane Michael's aftermath as search-and-rescue teams Friday made their way through ravaged neighbourhoods, looking for victims dead or alive.
Less than two days after arriving on the Florida Panhandle as one of the most powerful hurricanes in US history, a Category 4 monster with 155 miles per hour winds that sheared roofs from houses and buildings and snapped trees and power poles, Michael moved off the East Coast early Friday morning and into the Atlantic Ocean as a post-tropical storm. As Michael moved through the Mid-Atlantic on Thursday and overnight, flash flood warnings were sent to people in towns from the coast to the slopes of the Appalachian Mountains.
Miami Beach, known for its pristine beaches, fishing and boating, resembles a war zone, with the vast majority of its structures demolished.
The IRS said Friday it's offering the relief in parts of Florida and other regions that may be added later to the disaster area as designated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Rescue crews confronted with shattered roads, fallen trees and miles of ruins struggled on Friday to get to Florida Panhandle communities hardest hit by Hurricane Michael, saying they expected the death toll of 14 to rise.
"Very few people live to tell what it's like to experience storm surge", he said. While there might not be an increased number of storms, most studies show storms getting stronger, producing more rain, and packing a bigger storm surge.
Despite warnings and forecasts of destructive conditions, many residents chose to stay.
While a Florida military base in the hurricane's trajectory was evacuated and its planes flown hundreds of miles away, prisoners were not evacuated, and numerous region's poor people found they had nowhere to go until it was too late to get out. Bob Tenbrunson, a Mexico Beach retiree, rode out the storm at his daughter's house in nearby Panama City and returned to survey the damage to his home. "So I followed the mandatory evacuation order and left with my wife". The Sheriff's Office reported four deaths that were "in relation to or occurred during the storm", including one man who was killed when a tree crashed through the roof of his house. "I have been trying to patch it up the best I can".
Many homes in the heavily-hit Mexico Beach and Port St. Joseph areas were reduced to piles of lumber, broken glass and household items.
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"I spent my life savings and retirement to stay here so I can't sell it now", Mr. Tenbrunson said. "I hope we don't see it climb dramatically".
They hope to finish during daylight hours Saturday.
Others came with nothing - as there was nothing left to save.
After devastating coastal communities in the Florida Panhandle, the remnants of the storm, now downgraded to a post-tropical cyclone, killed five people as it passed through the USA state of Virginia.
The potent Michael claimed lives in Florida, Georgia and Virginia.Four people drowned in Virginia and a Hanover County firefighter died, the Associated Press reported. State and local officials previously said a man in the state was killed Thursday when a tree fell on his vehicle in Iredell County.
President Donald Trump announced plans to visit Florida and hard-hit Georgia early next week but didn't say what day he would arrive.
More than a million people remain without electricity across seven states. Florida and Alabama have both declared states of emergency. The storm, the strongest on record to hit the area and the third strongest to hit the continental U.S. in recorded history, left in its wake crushed and flooded homes and residents reeling from the loss of their homes and possessions.
Hurricanes are categorised based on wind speed, but even storms on the weaker end of that scale can wreak havoc across communities - with the storm surge a particular focus of authorities awaiting Michael's arrival.
About 5,000 U.S. servicemen were deployed to help with relief and recovery efforts, the Pentagon said, using 100 helicopters and 1,800 high-water vehicles.