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Hurricane Michael smashed into beach resorts, shopping centers, apartments and office buildings with 155-mile-per-hour winds and rising seas, threatening more than $25 billion in commercial property along the Florida Panhandle.

The 500-mile stretch of coastline includes about 18,000 commercial buildings valued at $25.5 billion at risk of flooding by surging storm water up to six feet above ground level when the largest hurricane on record to hit the Panhandle reached land near Panama City, Florida, late Wednesday, according to a CoStar Group analysis of property data and recent sales information.

Initial reports suggest the hurricane largely spared the major population centers of Pensacola and St. Petersburg, which bookended the storm’s landfall. However, local news reports and social media showed widespread flooding, massive debris fields and numerous destroyed or heavily damaged buildings in Panama City, Mexico Beach, Port St. Joe and other white-sand resort getaways. Early reports said at least two people were killed.

More than 331,000 homes and businesses lost power and up to 375,000 people along the Gulf Coast in 22 Florida counties were ordered or strongly urged to evacuate. Wind and heavy rain from the Category 4 storm, only the third hurricane to hit the Panhandle since 1950, also caused major damage as it moved inland into Georgia and Alabama.

Research firm CoreLogic estimated that the hurricane could affect 57,000 single-family homes valued at $13.4 billion. Ratings agency Moody’s Investor Service flagged 539 commercial mortgage loans totaling $4.4 billion secured by 543 properties located in counties under hurricane or tropical storm watches and warnings.

Retail and multifamily properties were the largest groups of properties in the loan pools exposed to damage, with retail accounting for about 40 percent and multifamily at 20.5 percent of the total, Moody’s Vice President Matthew Halpern said.
One of the towns hit the hardest by the hurricane, Panama City Beach, which is southwest of the state capital of Tallahassee, is a resort town known for its emerald-green waters and white-sand beaches. It’s a popular wedding venue with gazebos along the shoreline.

The town also attracts budget-conscious spring breakers who frequent the area’s relatively inexpensive hotels within walking distance of bars and clubs. Live beach cams showed precariously bending palm trees, pelting rain and scattered debris as the hurricane made landfall.

News reports said at least two people were killed, including a child in a mobile home park, with the death toll expected to rise as rescue workers search for bodies during the rubble.

Michael was downgraded to a tropical storm early Thursday as it trekked across the U.S. Southeast, bringing more rain to areas that can ill afford it. North Carolina still is recovering from Hurricane Florence, which roared ashore last month in Wilmington, causing major flooding.

Some Florida residents are concerned about an increasing frequency of hurricanes after Hurricane Irma slammed the state last year as a Category 4 storm. But while Irma and Michael have hit Florida in consecutive years, the prior 10 years were relatively quiet, said Michael Peltier, spokesman for state-run Citizens Property Insurance Corp., the No. 2 insurer in Florida with about 442,100 policies. Universal Property & Casualty Insurance Co. ranks first with more than 631,000 policies, according to the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation.

“Florida continues to have a lot of development along the coast,” Peltier told CoStar News. “In that sense, we will always be vulnerable to severe weather.”

This article was originally written and posted on October 11,2018 by RANDYL DRUMMER of the Costar Group at http://product.costar.com/home/news/196445?market=39