Red Cross volunteers in Bridgeport get ready to head south

Red Cross volunteers in Bridgeport get ready to head south

Mexico Beach left in ruins by Michael

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.

Hurricane Michael Live Updates: A Trail of Destruction in the Florida Panhandle

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. "Thats probably ground zero."

Tropical Storm Michael Spreads Flooding Rain, Wind Into Carolinas, East After Historic Category 4 Florida Panh

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.

Bay Medical Center Sacred Heart, a 300-bed hospital in the heart of Panama City, Fla., was a tumultuous mess on Thursday morning. Hurricane Michael had strafed the center, breaking windows, damaging roofs and stripping off the outsides of some buildings. Signage was strewn in the streets. Doctors, nurses and staff members wandered outside, some crying, some looking for cell service.

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.

• At 11 a.m. on Thursday, Michael was about 25 miles south of Greensboro, N.C., heading northeast with sustained wind speeds of up to 50 miles per hour. Now a tropical storm, it is moving relatively quickly, at 23 m.p.h., and is expected to speed up as it crosses the Carolinas and blows out to sea by early Friday. Click on the map below to see the storms projected path.

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.

MIAMI — Floridas Panhandle is littered with evidence that Hurricane Michael is one of the most powerful storms ever to hit the mainland United States. Roofs and awnings are peeled from buildings, pieces of homes are scattered amid snapped trees and downed power lines, chunks of beaches are washed away. Michael thrashed Georgia as a hurricane and eventually weakened to a tropical storm early Thursday as it moved into the Carolinas, soaking areas that got swamped last month by Hurricane Florence.

Hurricane Michael devastation in Panama City, Florida seen in drone video, photos

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.

Michael is shaking up the upcoming election in the battleground state of Florida. The hurricane has given national exposure to Republican Gov. Rick Scott, who is trying to unseat Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum , the Democrat running against Republican Ron DeSantis. The publicity could backfire if recovery is delayed ahead of Election Day. President Donald Trump has endorsed Scott and DeSantis.

Michael claims second life, a child in mobile home, on its way to Carolinas

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 cant drive a car anywhere, you cant do anything because its 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. Theyre not there. Its gone, she said.

Meteorologists use central pressure readings to gauge a hurricanes strength — the lower the pressure, the stronger the storm. Michael was more intense at landfall than hurricanes Andrew, Katrina and Maria. Only the 1935 Labor Day hurricane in the Florida Keys and Hurricane Camille in 1969 were stronger.

Video: Hurricane Michael: FEMA Focusing On Search And Rescue | TODAY

Death Toll Rises As Michael Moves Along US Coast

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.

Horrendous. Catastrophic: Menacing Michael Leaves Florida Devastated, Heads for Carolinas

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.

The Gulf of Mexico gave Michael exactly what it needed to bulk up into a monster: The water was 4 to 5 degrees F (2.2 to 2.8 degrees C) warmer than normal, and high-atmosphere winds that can disrupt a hurricane were quiet. Michaels wind speed increased by 72 percent in less than 33 hours.

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.

– Tropical-storm-force (39-plus mph) winds are possible through much of the Carolinas into Thursday night or Friday.- These winds are capable of downing trees and triggering additional power outages in these areas. This is a particular concern in areas where soil is still saturated from Florence's torrential rain in northeastern South Carolina and North Carolina.- Metro areas that may experience additional power outages through Thursday night include: Columbia, Charleston, Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham.- Strong winds are also forecast over portions southeastern Virginia and the Delmarva Peninsula as Michael becomes post-tropical off the mid-Atlantic coast late Thursday night into Friday.

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."

– Florida: 5.26 inches at Sumatra; 3.17 inches in Tallahassee; 2.61 inches in Panama City- Alabama: 5.54 inches in Ozark; 4.92 inches in Dothan; 1.60 inches in Montgomery- Georgia: 6.48 inches near Powder Springs; 3.37 inches in Macon- South Carolina: 6.01 inches near Hartsville; 4.47 inches in Columbia- North Carolina: 9.62 inches near Black Mountain; 6.75 inches near Boone; 2.95 inches in Asheville- Virginia: 5.75 inches near White Gate; 1.40 inches in Blacksburg

Video: Search for the missing at Mexico Beach, FL

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."

Michael was the third most intense continental U.S. landfall by pressure and fourth strongest by maximum sustained winds on record. Michael was also the most intense Florida Panhandle landfall on record, the first Category 4 hurricane to do so in records dating to the mid-19th century.

Video: Florida Governor says massive rescue and recovery effort underway following Hurricane Michael

Man killed in Florida home by fallen tree during Hurricane Michael

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."

Michael arrived in southwestern Georgia early Wednesday evening as a Category 3 major hurricane, the first hurricane of that strength to track into Georgia since the Georgia Hurricane of 1898, according to Dr. Phil Klotzbach, tropical scientist at Colorado State University.

Video: Florida Governor says massive rescue and recovery effort underway following Hurricane Michael

Live video: Florida officials hold news conference on Hurricane Michael

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.

Elmore said the road is closed west of Tallahassee, between mile marker 85 near DeFuniak Springs and mile marker 166 near Lake Seminole (map). The DeFuniak Springs exit is one of the main driving options to get to beach destinations on 30A, such as Seaside.

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.

In an email sent early Thursday, spokesman Eddie Elmore said the road was closed “due to extremely hazardous conditions.”

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.

The Florida Highway Patrol has closed an 80-mile stretch of Interstate 10 to clear debris from Hurricane Michael.

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.

There were at least 5 confirmed fatalities in Bay County alone, a Panama City Police source told Fox News. Authorities are still going house-to-house and are asking people to stay out of the city because roads are blocked, and there is no power or phone service. The law enforcement source, who called the situation "catastrophic," said that evacuess should remain where they are and not come back for the time being.

Widespread power outages: More than 60,000 homes and businesses in southern Alabama were without power early Thursday.

Jinks Middle School took such a hit from the hurricane that Adair was able to fly the drone right through the school's gym, where Michael's fierce gusts peeled back the roof and collapsed walls. Not that everything was ripped apart: Even with debris lining the basketball court, a volleyball net remained taut and in place, awaiting the next match.

Photos: PHOTOS: Hurricane Michaels destruction in Northwest Florida – The Times

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.

Rick Reichmuth, Fox News' chief meteorologist, said Michael was the fourth-most powerful storm to make landfall in the U.S. when measuring by wind, and the third-most powerful in terms of pressure, at 919 mb. Michael was the first storm of its magnitude to make landfall in the Panhandle since record-keeping there began in 1851.

Unimaginable destruction: Hurricane smashes rows of houses

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.

Rescue workers are set to spend Thursday picking carefully through the wreckage in neighborhoods where people did not evacuate before Michael slammed the area. FEMA administrator Brock Long told "FOX & Friends" on Thursday that crews were only able to do "limited" search and rescue operations before nightfall.

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.

Some of the worst damage was in Mexico Beach, where Michael crashed ashore and brought a storm surge of 9 feet. Entire blocks of homes near the beach were obliterated, leaving nothing but concrete slabs in the sand. Rows and rows of other homes were reduced to piles of splintered debris or were crumpled and slumped at odd angles.

Second Michael-related fatality reported, child killed in Georgia

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.

CNNs Brooke Baldwin struggled to find the words to describe the devastation left by Hurricane Michael as she flew in a helicopter above Mexico Beach, Fla., on Thursday morning.

Pets are checked in, as people seek safety in a shelter as Hurricane Michael approaches on October 10, 2018 in Panama City, Florida. – Hurricane Michael closed in on Floridas Gulf Coast on Wednesday as an “extremely dangerous” category four storm packing powerful winds and a huge sea surge, US forecasters said. The Miami-based National Hurricane Center said the storm, which local forecasters are calling an “unprecedented” weather event for the area, is expected to slam ashore later in the day with “life-threatening” storm surges.

Stretch of I-10 closed for debris removal

Its gone. Its gone, Baldwin said before her cameraman panned to long rows of leveled homes below. Its — its obliterated.

The small beachfront community, located about 40 miles south of Panama City, Fla., was where the Category 4 storm made landfall on Wednesday afternoon with maximum sustained winds of 155 mph, just 2 mph below the threshold of Category 5. It was the strongest hurricane ever to hit the Florida Panhandle, and the third strongest ever to strike the U.S. mainland.

Good god. This footage from @BrookeBCNN. Mexico Beach, Florida is “gone” after Michael. pic.twitter.com/Fj3l6SYeFZ

Long warned people in the region to expect a long-lasting impact from the storm, which spent much of Wednesday battering Florida before it thundered north across Georgia and South Carolina. He pointed in particular to the power outages affecting hundreds of thousands of people across Florida, Georgia, Alabama and the Carolinas, saying that it could take weeks for the lights to come back on everywhere because of the damage.

At least two people died in the storm, and federal officials fear the death toll could rise as search and rescue crews begin to assess the damage.

As of Thursday morning, more than 500,000 customers still don't have their electricity restored across Georgia, Florida and Alabama. And as the storm continues moving in a northeast direction, forecasters predict parts of Georgia, the Carolinas and Virginia could experience "life-threatening flash flooding."

Devastating footage pours in from ravaged Florida Panhandle

Roads to Mexico Beach were virtually impassable, so Baldwin, who spent the night in nearby Destin, Fla., chartered a chopper to get the view from above. Fires could be seen burning in the distance, homes shredded and boats strewn across the town of about 1,100 people.

At the time, its maximum sustained wind speeds were measuring around 155 mph, making it the strongest hurricane on record to directly hit that part of The Sunshine State. Michael was also the most powerful storm to make landfall in the continental U.S. since 1992's Hurricane Andrew.

Its just awful to look at, Baldwin told viewers before her feed cut out. It was bad in Panama City Beach, but Ive never seen anything like this … I have no words.

There have been at least two reported deaths in the U.S. since Michael made landfall along the Florida Panhandle Wednesday afternoon as a Category 4 hurricane. 

A Tampa Bay Times reporter and a photojournalist who managed to make it to Mexico Beach on the ground early Thursday described what they saw:

Homes completely destroyed. Refrigerators and toilets where the storm left them. Thousands of two-by-fours, chewed up and indecipherable. Refrigerators, toilets, staircases to nowhere and front doors 10 feet up with no way down. The neighborhoods along U.S. 98 looked like a childs playroom after a massive tantrum.

More than 180,000 people along the Florida Panhandle were under mandatory evacuation orders. And while many heeded those orders, some did not.

At least four survivors were discovered by the Tampa Bay Times reporters, including a woman and a man who were looking for help with their mothers portable oxygen machine.

Slideshow: Aerial photos show the devastation left in the path of Hurricane Michael >>>


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