Residents of Florida Panhandle to central Georgia in the U.S. have heaved a sigh of relieve as Hurricane Michael downgraded early Thursday to a tropical storm after leaving a trail of destruction including at least two deaths.
An unidentified man in the Florida Panhandle was killed by a fallen tree when it ripped through his home’s roof, a spokeswoman for the Gadsden County Sheriff’s Office told Fox News.
Fox News also confirmed that an 11-year-old girl in Seminole County, Georgia, was killed Wednesday afternoon when thrashing winds sent a car or boat port airborne onto the family’s mobile home.
The girl, whose identity has not been released, was hit by the structure as it tore through the home’s roof.
Authorities told WMAZ-TV that first responders didn’t reach the home until after nightfall due to downed trees and power lines blocking their way.
Search and rescue crews were expected to escalate efforts to reach hardest-hit areas and check for anyone trapped or injured in the storm debris.
Florida Governor Rick Scott said crews were working on clearing roads so that first responders could reach those impacted by the storm.
The powerful storm made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane Wednesday afternoon and ripped through the Florida Panhandle with 155 mph winds and 12-foot waves.
Rick Reichmuth, Fox News’ chief meteorologist said Michael was the fourth most powerful storm to ever make landfall in the U.S. in terms of wind, and the third most powerful in terms of pressure, at 919 mb.
Across the Panhandle, roaring winds splintered trees and rooftops. Neighborhood streets flooded as waves battered the shoreline.
Damage in Panama City was so extensive that broken and uprooted trees and downed power lines lay nearly everywhere.
Roofs were peeled away, sent airborne, and homes were split open by fallen trees, while twisted street signs lay on the ground.
More than 380,000 homes and businesses in Florida were without power at the height of the storm.
Georgia Power reported that over 170,000 customers lost power as Michael swept across the state, WGXA-TV reported.
Meanwhile, Michael continues its track across southern Georgia toward the Carolinas, still reeling from flooding by last month’s Hurricane Florence.
The storm, which has sustained winds of 60 mph, was about 25 miles east of Macon, Georgia, the National Hurricane Center said in a 2 a.m. ET advisory.
Michael is forecast to move off the Mid-Atlantic coast by early Friday, the NHC said.