Hurricane Michael death toll rises as rescue crews struggle to access hard-hit areas


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With at least six people killed by the most powerful storm to hit the Florida Panhandle in recorded history, officials warned Thursday that the number was likely to rise as search crews struggled to gain access to ravaged areas and sift through the piles of debris.

Utility companies said more than 1.3 million customers remained without power from Florida to Virginia on Thursday evening as Michael — still a tropical storm more than a day after landfall — remained dangerous, with maximum sustained winds of 50 mph.

Michael made landfall in Mexico Beach, Florida, on Wednesday just shy of Category 5 hurricane strength, with winds gusting at 155 mph. While the storm weakened through the night as it passed over Georgia, it still proved deadly.

“Unfortunately in these types of things as we go through and sift through damage, ultimately those who didn’t heed warnings, particularly around the Mexico Beach area — we typically see deaths climb, unfortunately,” Brock Long, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said on CBS on Thursday.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott said Thursday morning: “This hurricane was an absolute monster. And the damage left in its wake is still yet to be fully understood.”

And Michael — still a tropical storm more than a day after landfall — isn’t finished yet. The Carolinas, still cleaning up from Hurricane Florence, could get flooding, tornadoes and up to 7 inches of rain.

“We need people in South Carolina and North Carolina to remain vigilant and be careful. This is a strong tropical storm pushing through,” Long said on “Today.”

Sharon Black, who lives in Wilmington, North Carolina, worried that Michael’s winds would blow away debris still piled up on front lawns from Florence.

“I spent three or four weeks trying to take care of things” after Florence, she said, adding that she hoped this storm would take it easy on the Carolinas.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said 6 inches of rain had fallen in parts of the state, triggering a mudslide in McDowell County, 100 miles west of Charlotte.

Elisha Fieldstadt and Alex Johnson and Rima Abdelkader
2018-10-11 23:41:00

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