As the deadly Hurricane Michael wreaks havoc across the Florida Panhandle, some businesses have been accused of price-gouging essential items like gasoline and water, according to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi.
Michael, whose rapid intensification as it churned north over the Gulf of Mexico caught many by surprise, made landfall yesterday afternoon near Mexico Beach, about 32km southeast of Panama City in Florida's Panhandle region, with top sustained winds reaching 249km/h.
Hurricane Michael also cut power to more than 200,000 people in the Florida Panhandle, including many who may not get it back for weeks.
Roads were filled with piles of floating debris.
In Port St. Joe, two storm chasers had to abandon their vehicle and find shelter as over 100 miles per hour wind gusts and heavy rain made it impossible for them to drive.
"We basically just walked away from everything and said goodbye to it", he said, tears welling up.
The good news is that the sun has risen on the Florida gulf coast. Soon enough, Mexico Beach's emerald waters and sugar-sand beaches were covered in a dark sea of debris, she said.
The storm's intensity waned steadily as it pushed inland and curled northeasterly into Georgia. "I'm sure we probably got flooded, at the very least".
Scott said he would join the Florida National Guard to survey the damage in Panama City and Mexico Beach on Thursday.
A Panhandle man was killed by a tree that toppled on a home, Gadsden County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Anglie Hightower said. As we saw during last month's Hurricane Florence in the Carolinas, it's likely that thousands of people couldn't even afford to evacuate.
Smith could not provide details on the victim.
The Florida Department of Transportation is leading an effort with "dozens of crews" to clear roadways so first responders can access more areas that have been affected by the storm, the governor said.
"Panama City, I don't know if there will be much left", he added.
"Michael should weaken as it crosses the southeastern United States through Thursday", the NHC said.
Only two other storms in recorded American weather history - that is, since 1851 - had stronger winds.
Unsafe conditions from damaging winds and flooding rain were forecast to spread through Georgia and into the Carolinas Wednesday night and Thursday (Friday NZT).
Around 375,000 people were under either mandatory or voluntary evacuation orders across 18 counties in Florida in preparation of the storm, and a state of emergency had been declared in 35 counties prior to the storm making landfall. "Do not risk your life, leave NOW if you were told to do so", it said.
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