- Hurricane Michael carved swaths of devastation as it made landfall on the Florida Panhandle.
- Two deaths have been confirmed – one in Florida and one in Georgia.
- Flooding was reported Thursday in parts of North Carolina and Virginia.
- More than 900,000 homes and businesses have lost power in the South.
When Hurricane Michael made landfall as a high-end Category 4 storm on the Florida Panhandle Wednesday, buildings along the coast were smashed to pieces, storm-surge flooding lapped at the eaves of beach houses and an Air Force base sustained extensive damage. Two people have died in the storm, which continued to zip across Georgia and the Carolinas Thursday morning.
One death was reported in the Panhandle. A Greensboro man was killed when a tree crashed on his home, according to Gadsden County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Anglie Hightower. In southern Georgia, an 11-year-old girl was killed when a carport hit her home in Seminole County. The county coroner later identified her as Sarah Radney.
In Florida, from Panama City through Mexico Beach — where the storm made landfall — and into Apalachicola, houses were swamped or blown apart, roofs were ripped off, boats sank and trees toppled in the high winds. Aerial images at Mexico Beach Thursday morning showed extreme damage, with homes swept completely off their foundations and destroyed and few properties left standing along the coast.
“Mexico Beach took the brunt,” FEMA Administrator Brock Long said. “That’s probably ground zero.”
(MORE: What’s Next for Michael)
As of 8:30 a.m. EDT Thursday, the total number of customers without power in Florida, Alabama, Georgia and the Carolinas topped 900,000, according to PowerOutage.us.
Search and rescue missions underway: Long told reporters Thursday morning that the goal is to send crews into the hardest-hit areas to perform search and rescue missions. “The power’s not going to be on for a while,” he said.
Stretch of Interstate 10 closed: An 80-mile stretch of I-10 was closed Thursday morning as the Florida Highway Patrol worked to clear debris from the roadway. The closure impacted a stretch of the freeway from west of Tallahassee to Lake Seminole, the report added.
Major damage reported at Tyndall Air Force Base: The base, which sits across the bay from Panama City, posted on its Facebook page that the base sustained extensive damage. A wind gust of 129 mph was measured at the base. No injuries were reported. Base personnel had been ordered to evacuate on Monday. The Facebook post said evacuees should plan on being away for an extended time.
Devastation in Mexico Beach: Images from Mexico Beach showed widespread devastation with homes reduced to kindling and roofs lying in the middle of U.S. 98. Storm surge lapped at roof eaves. Patricia Mulligan was in a condo on Mexico Beach when Michael slammed into the town. “You can’t drive a car anywhere, you can’t do anything because it’s littered with houses, pieces of houses,” Mulligan told the New York Times. She said her brother’s condo was destroyed as were other units nearby. “They’re not there. It’s gone,” she said.
(MORE: How to Help the Victims of Hurricane Michael)
Storm tracker shocked by damage: “It’s hard to convey in words the scale of the catastrophe in Panama City. The whole city looks like a nuke was dropped on it. I’m literally shocked at the scale of the destruction,” tweeted chaser Josh Morgerman.
Panama City residents feel wrath of Michael: Vance Beu, 29, was staying with his mother at her Panama City apartment when a pine tree slashed through the roof. Beu said the roar of the storm sounded like a jet engine as the winds accelerated. “It was terrifying, honestly. There was a lot of noise. We thought the windows were going to break at any time. We had the inside windows kind of barricaded in with mattresses,” Beu said.
Reports of looting in Panama City: Storm chasers posted video of people grabbing items from inside a heavily damaged Family Dollar store in Panama City on Thursday.
News outlets work through power loss: In Panama City Beach, WJHG-TV employees were told they could evacuate the station if they felt unsafe, but a few remained inside the building, according to reporter Danielle Ellis. The station lost power a few hours later. The Panama City News Herald lost power and stayed in operation using a backup generator, but did not have internet access at the office.
Port St. Joe Mayor rides out the storm: Mayor Bo Patterson remained in his home seven blocks from the beach during the storm. “It feels like you don’t know when the next tree is going to fall on top of you because it’s blowing so ferociously,” he told Reuters by telephone. “It’s very, very scary. We have trees being uprooted, heavy, heavy rain.”
Apalachicola suffers heavy damage: Sally Crown, who rode out the storm in her house, ventured out after the storm had passed. “It’s absolutely horrendous. Catastrophic,” she said. “There’s flooding. Boats on the highway. A house on the highway. Houses that have been there forever are just shattered.”
Trees downed across capital city: In Tallahassee, the power loss from Michael surpassed the loss from Hermine over two years ago, according to Mayor Andrew Gillum. He said about 110,000 homes and businesses were without power in the city Thursday morning and that one of the city’s sewer systems failed. He urged patience and optimism from residents as the city works through its recovery. “I’m counting our many, many blessings. This storm for us certainly was not as bad for us as it could have been.”
Federal disaster approved: President Donald Trump approved a major disaster declaration for the state in the wake of the storm, making federal aid available for state and local response efforts.
Thousands lose power: After its assault on Florida, Michael’s wind and rain pelted southern and central Georgia, knocking out power and downing trees in the southwestern corner of the state. Early Thursday morning, about 350,000 homes and business were without power.
Numerous tornadoes reported: Crawford County officials say a possible tornado damaged five homes near Roberta, but no injuries were reported. Tornadoes might have also been spawned near Roberta, Perry and Fort Valley in central Georgia. Farther north, a reported tornado touched down Wednesday evening in the Atlanta area. No reports of injuries or damage were immediately available.
Agriculture decimated: With the harvest underway, many farms in South Georgia had their crops ravaged by the storm. “Our worst dreams are being realized,” Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black told reporters Thursday morning.
Injuries reported in Dothan: At least three people were injured in Dothan when a tree fell on a home Wednesday afternoon, WSFA.com reported. One of the victims was in critical condition, the report added.
Widespread power outages: More than 60,000 homes and businesses in southern Alabama were without power early Thursday.
Another storm brings flooding: Just weeks after being slammed by Hurricane Florence, the Carolinas are yet again seeing impacts from a tropical system. On Thursday morning, flooding was reported in parts of western North Carolina after hours of heavy rain overwhelmed rivers and streams. Several roads in Boone, North Carolina, were impacted the floodwaters Thursday morning, the city’s police department tweeted.
Students sent home early: South of Asheville, schools in Henderson and Polk counties were closed Thursday because of the storm. Watauga County also sent students home shortly after they arrived Thursday morning.
Don’t drive around barricades: Dozens of roads and bridges damaged by Florence are still being repaired, and transportation officials urged travelers to refrain from driving around barricades, according to the State.
State Fair delayed: In Raleigh, organizers for the North Carolina State Fair told WRAL.com that the opening was delayed from Thursday to Friday because of the storm’s impacts.
Flash flood emergency in Roanoke: The National Weather Service issued a flash flood emergency for Roanoke County, which includes the city of Roanoke, on Thursday afternoon after heavy rain triggered flooding in several parts of the county. Multiple swift-water rescues and mudslides were reported.
State of emergency: Gov. Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency Thursday as the Commonwealth began to experience serious impacts from the storm.
– Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.
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