I landed a hateful 99 in a tropical storm in PNS, once upon a time. Then I got to sit there watching the DHL van move not an inch from cover. They had the right idea. Oh, you wanna be mr. hero pilot guy? Awesome, but we get paid by the hour and we gotz food in the van. See you after our nap, if you haven’t blown away.
Panama City is my hometown, and it looks like a war zone. In the few minutes I had them on the phone while the eye wall passed overhead, my parents said that they had lost at least part of the roof, every tree in the yard was gone, all the outbuildings destroyed, and the whole house was shaking. They were huddled around the chimney, which was shaking.
I haven't heard much from them since other than a brief "We're ok." by text. But they're way out in the swamp, and I'm not sure where they'll be able to sleep... power probably won't be restored there for weeks or months—almost all of the poles were destroyed. I'm considering taking an LOA to go home and help.
Florida folks are tough, but this was the worst storm I've ever seen. The gulf was incredibly warm this year, and the way it built and accelerated over the continental shelf was terrifying, from someone looking from the outside.
My parents house is right on the outside eye wall in that picture. The eye is compact and well-defined, and tightened before landfall.
I have friends in the area who have sent pictures of their houses/malls/schools/banks, and everything is trashed, including brick and steel buildings, malls, modern buildings with hurricane glass, small gas stations and mom-and-pop shops, school gyms, and so on. Trees ... almost all of them ... are all but destroyed, collapsed, reduced to splinters.
Most residents expected Michael to make landfall as a cat 2 or a weak cat 3—serious, but ok as long as you weren't in a low-lying area or a trailer, and didn't get hit by a tornado, so most people sheltered in place, many having no economic or practical alternative. By the time the hurricane was upgraded, it was already too late to leave.
It made landfall effectively as a cat 5 hurricane, and will likely be upgraded (as Andrew was). This was one of the four worst storms to hit the united states, and the worst to hit the panhandle in recorded history.
I have many friends who I am aware have no homes or beds to sleep in tonight, and a great many more who haven't checked in. There is no power or phone service to most of that part of the state right now.
Things are really bad there.
And yet I told a friend of mine today that I was worried about my parents, and, confused, he asked why—he had no idea there was even a hurricane.