Twisted metal and loose brickwork littered the streets of Panama City, Florida, this morning.

The city on St. Andrews Bay was directly in the path of the devastating Hurricane Michael, which carved a brutal path of destruction through the panhandle and Georgia yesterday.

“It’s very hard to explain,” a member of the Cajun Navy rescue group told CNN. “The only way I can explain it, through my eyeballs, is a Third World country war zone.”

“You can’t drive a car anywhere,” Mexico Beach resident Patricia Mulligan told the New York Times. “You can’t do

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Experts originally predicted Hurricane Michael would be just a heavy Cat 3 hurricane. But just hours before it made landfall yesterday afternoon, it became obvious that this was no Cat 3 storm.

With winds of 155 mph, Michael is the strongest hurricane to hit the Florida panhandle ever and the third strongest storm in U.S. history.

And while Florida is no stranger to destructive hurricanes, the devastation left in the wake of Michael is on a scale unlike anything Floridians have ever seen before. In an interview with CNN, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said that the power grid itself had been destroyed.

“This is a multi-year recovery effort,” said Rubio. “We’ve got to rebuild the electric grid. This is not restoring power. From what I’m hearing this morning, they have to rebuild the electric grid based on some damage that’s been described to me.”

So far, two people have been reported dead, including an 11-year-old girl in southwest Georgia. But rescuers say it’s likely they will find more bodies in the ruins of buildings littered around the state.

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Today, Floridians have the unenviable task of returning to their ruined homes and businesses… and starting to rebuild.

But even though the worst of the rain and wind has passed, going home will be a dangerous slog.

Below is a breakdown of the most dangerous pitfalls when returning home after a hurricane and how to avoid them.

Beware of Contaminated Food and Water: Throw out any food that may have been contaminated by flood water, as well as any perishables that were left in the fridge during a power outage. Do not use contaminated water to brush your teeth, wash your hands, wash the dishes, or prepare food. Tap water may not be safe for drinking.

Be careful near damaged buildings: Even if a building is still standing, it could still be damaged and unsafe after a hurricane. Make sure a building is safe before going inside. If you hear creaking or unusual noises from your house, leave immediately and call a building inspector.

Turn your electricity off: Turn off your electricity at the main breaker. Never use an electrical device that is wet. Throw it in rice and forget about it for a few days. The rice should absorb most of the moisture.

Snuff out the candles: Flammable debris and potential gas leaks make candles a risky choice after a hurricane. Use a flashlight instead.

Don’t poison yourself: If you plan to use grills, stoves, or a generator while your power is down, use them outdoors and away from your windows. The fumes are toxic and will be deadly without the proper ventilation.

Avoid Floodwater: It’s best to avoid floodwater entirely. Floodwater can carry infections and diseases and often conceals dangerous debris like sharp glass and metal. Don’t even try to drive through floodwater. It’s often deeper than you think.

Watch out for fallen power lines: If you spot a downed power line, don’t touch it. Call the electric company and let them deal with it. Keep an eye out for damaged lines that might be hanging overhead.

Stop Mold: Air out rooms and clean with disinfectant to prevent the spread of mold.

If you’re on the ground floor in Florida, Georgia or the Carolinas, we’d like to hear from you. What’s it like down there on the front lines? What challenges have you faced? Did any of your prep come in handy? Click here to email me and let me know.

All the best,

Owen Sullivan

Owen Sullivan
Editor, Money & Crisis

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Owen Sullivan

Written By Owen Sullivan

Owen Sullivan isn’t a millionaire or one of the Wall Street elite. He was just one of the many folks who was hit hard when the housing bubble burst… and decided he was never going to let that happen again. Since then, he’s worked with industry experts to develop strategies and techniques to bulletproof his finances — and yours — against the next crisis. His methods don’t require years of financial experience. These are simple strategies that anyone can follow. After all, financial prepping shouldn’t be reserved for a select few.