Stunning images show unimaginable damage in the wake of Hurricane Michael on Florida Panhandle

By Kevin Byrne, AccuWeather staff writer
October 12, 2018, 7:14:34 PM EDT

(REUTERS/Carlo Allegri)

A bedroom of a destroyed house is pictured following Hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach, Florida, U.S., October 11, 2018.

(REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman)

People inspect a Waffle House damaged by Hurricane Michael in Callaway, Florida, U.S. October 11, 2018.

Jonathan Bachman

A McDonald's sign damaged by Hurricane Michael is pictured in Panama City Beach, Florida, U.S. October 10, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman

(Photo/ Brandon Clement)

A fighter jet is seen upside down after Hurricane Michael.

(REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman)

An American flag flies amongst rubble left in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach, Florida, U.S. October 11, 2018.

(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

People walk amidst destruction on the main street of Mexico Beach, Fla., in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael on Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018.

(Photo/ Brandon Clement)

Hurricane Michael caused extensive damage to homes and boats in Florida. (Photo/ Brandon Clement)

(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

A storm chaser climbs into his vehicle during the eye of Hurricane Michael to retrieve equipment after a hotel canopy collapsed in Panama City Beach, Fla., Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018.

(Photo/ Brandon Clement)

Extensive damage of an RV lot can be seen from above after Hurricane Michael struck Florida.

(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Kaylee O'Brian weeps inside her home after several trees fell on it during Hurricane Michael in Panama City, Fla., Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018.

(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

A woman checks on her vehicle as Hurricane Michael passes through, after the hotel canopy had just collapsed, in Panama City Beach, Fla., Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018.

(Photo/ Brandon Clement)

Hurricane Michael caused extensive damage to buildings and property.

(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Hotel employees look at a canopy that just collapsed, as Hurricane Michael passes through in Panama City Beach, Fla., Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018.

(Photo/ Brandon Clement)

Catastophic destruction of homes can be seen from above after Hurricane Michael.

(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

People cut away a tree that'll on a vehicle in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael in Panama City, Fla., Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018.

(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Hurricane Michael caused widespread damage across Florida, including these rail cars in Panama City Beach.

(Photo/ Brandon Clement)

Catastrophic damage can be seen above Mexico Beach, Florida, after Hurricane Michael.

(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Shredded trees, derailed train cars and a sunken trailer are seen in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael in Panama City, Fla., Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018.

(Photo/Tallahassee Police)

A large tree brought down power lines in Tallahassee, Florida, on Wednesday.

(Photo/ Brandon Clement)

A bulldozer begins the massive cleanup effort after Hurricane Michael.

(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Firefighter Austin Schlarb performs a door to door search in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach, Fla., Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018.

(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Rescue personnel perform a search in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach, Fla., Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018.

(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

A boat sits amidst debris in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach, Fla., Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018.

Destruction is seen in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach, Fla., Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018.

(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Colin Hunt/Handout via REUTERS

Damaged and destroyed buildings are seen in an aerial photograph, taken during a post-Hurricane Michael flight by a U.S. Coast Guard MH-65 helicopter over Mexico Beach, Florida.

(AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

Homes destroyed by Hurricane Michael are shown in this aerial photo Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018, in Mexico Beach, Fla.

(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Rescue personnel search amidst debris in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach, Fla., Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018.

(Photo/ International Space Station)

The International Space Station captured this image of Hurricane Michael as it passed by overhead.

(Photo/ International Space Station)

Hurricane Michael was one of the most intense storms on record.

(Photo/ International Space Station)

Michael also had some of the highest winds on record. The ISS captured the eye as it orbited overhead.

(Photo/ Walton County Sheriff Department)

A sailboat is pummeled by Hurricane Michael at Pilcher Park.

(AP Photo/Russ Bynum)

Rex Buzzett, far left, his son Josh Buzzett and neighbor Hilda Duren stand outside the Buzzett’s home, Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018, that was gutted by a storm surge in Port St. Joe, Fla.

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One day after Hurricane Michael battered northwestern Florida with a force and fury rarely seen from tropical cyclones in the United States, many communities are beginning to understand the scope of the damage.

Among the hardest-hit towns were coastal cities such as Panama City Beach, Port St. Joe and Mexico Beach, Florida.

“The devastation on Mexico Beach is beyond words after Hurricane Michael,” AccuWeather National Weather Reporter Jonathan Petramala said. Petramala toured Mexico Beach, Florida, damage from the air and captured scenes of total destruction on Thursday morning.


Videos seen Wednesday showed catastrophic storm surge nearly completely submerging buildings in Mexico Beach, a town described by Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio as a “old old Florida town” with a “charm that feels like a trip back in time unspoiled by development.”


Rubio said on Twitter Thursday morning that one local official told him that Mexico Beach is “gone.”

Michael made landfall between Mexico Beach and Tyndall Air Force Base around 12:30 p.m. CDT Wednesday as a Category 4 hurricane with maximum sustained winds around 155 mph, just 2 mph shy of Category 5 status. At landfall, the storm’s barometric pressure was 27.13 inches of mercury (919 mb), making it the third strongest landfalling U.S. hurricane on record.

At least 13 fatalities have been attributed to Michael in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia. Over 1.5 million customers remained without power across five states Friday morning.

Rubio also said Highway 98, which connects many coastal communities was completely washed out in several areas.

Reports from locals in Panama City, known as a “vibrant seaside city” have indicated that there is catastrophic devastation, according to Rubio.

“It will take a long time to recover from this. We will do everything we can to make sure the federal government does its part. But I will confess that my biggest fear that this part of Florida, with its unique and genuine characteristics, will never be the same,” Rubio said.


Aerial images on Thursday morning showed entire sections of Mexico Beach that were obliterated by the storm.


A Panama City resident told The Star newspaper in Port St. Joe that “It looks like an atomic bomb had hit our city.”

A mandatory curfew was enacted from dusk Wednesday to dawn Thursday in Bay County. Earlier Wednesday, Bay County emergency management officials had warned residents to shelter in place. The weather became too extreme for emergency personnel to respond to calls for assistance.

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As many roads were strewn with debris or washed away in the region, many officials, including Florida Gov. Rick Scott, urged residents who live in affected areas to either stay put or not to return to their homes if they had evacuated.


Tyndall Air Force Base took a direct hit, and extensive damage was reported. Non-essential military personnel and civilians had been ordered to evacuate the base on Tuesday.

Officials said in a statement Thursday that they did not have a timetable for when the base would reopen. Roof damage to nearly every home on the base was reported.

“At this point, Tyndall residents and evacuated personnel should remain at their safe location,” said Col. Brian Laidlaw, 325th Fighter Wing commander. “We are actively developing plans to reunite families and plan to provide safe passage back to base housing.”

Other law enforcement agencies from around Florida said they were on their way to assist with storm recovery.

"Help is on the way," the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office tweeted.

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