Two, including a child, killed in Hurricane Michael; Florida witnesses 'worst' storm

Image from International Space Station of Hurricane Michael | NASA via Reuters

Image from International Space Station of Hurricane Michael | NASA via Reuters

A state emergency-management official said all hospitals in the impacted region have reported some form of "critical failure" - water and sewage problems or infrastructure issues such as crumbling walls - that required patients to be relocated and medical field hospitals to be set up.

Hurricane Michael, the third-most powerful storm to ever hit the USA mainland, slammed into the Florida Panhandle as a Category 4 storm on Wednesday.

Nearby Panama City Beach experienced similar damage along with other communities along the shore of the Gulf of Mexico.

- Storm riders: Roughly 375,000 people in Florida warned to evacuate; many refused.

But the full extent of the damage was only slowly becoming clear, with some of the stricken areas hard to reach because of roads blocked by debris or water.

By 8 a.m., winds had slowed to 50 mph as Michael crossed SC, about 40 miles west of Columbia, The storm had picked up speed to a fast 21 mph and should continue weakening.

In addition, Gillum said the storm knocked out one of the city's sewage systems, including the backup power source.

The Talmadge Bridge on US 17 over the Savannah River between Savannah, Georgia and SC remains closed because of the threat of high winds on the suspension bridge. Tornadoes, unsafe winds and more flooding are possible in numerous same areas still recovering from Hurricane Florence.

The devastation inflicted by Hurricane Michael came into focus Thursday with rows upon rows of homes found smashed to pieces, and rescue crews struggling to enter stricken areas in hopes of accounting for hundreds of people who may have stayed behind.

Since the storm hit, residents of Panama City have seen their homes collapse, their roads flooded, and their storefront windows shattered. They are posting information about recovery efforts, road and bridge openings and the status of evactuaion orders on FloridaDisaster.org. An 80-mile (130-kilometer) stretch of Interstate 10, the main east-west route, was closed.

The town looked bruised, said Kathleen Troy, 57, as she and her husband walked their dog through dark streets, but not beaten. A pine tree punched a hole in their roof and his ears even popped when the barometric pressure went lower. One of the carport's legs punctured the roof and hit the 11-year-old girl in the head. Authorities have been unable to fully assess the damage due to debris blocking roadways, and cell service is unavailable in some areas.

Hurricane Michael's wind and storm surge ripped up buildings like posies and carried them inland.

The latest advisory said Michael was located 180 miles south-southwest of Apalachicola, Fla., moving northward at 12 mph.

Michael's strength may reflect the effect of climate change on storms.

As of 11 a.m. EDT, Michael was centred about 35 miles (60 kilometres) south of Charlotte, North Carolina, with winds of 50 mph (85 kph).

The storm intensified rapidly - it grew from a tropical depression into a Category 4 hurricane in just 72 hours, which gave residents little time to make plans.

A reporter and photojournalist from the Tampa Bay Times ventured there in the dark early Thursday, finding the town of about 1,000 nearly impassable. Refrigerators and toilets and piles of soggy furniture are strewn across properties.

Sally Crown rode out Michael on the Panhandle thinking at first that the worst damage was the many trees downed in her yard. Another man was shining a flashlight from his balcony as alarms sounded and fires burned.

Emergency responders throughout Georgia, Alabama and the Florida Panhandle are working to clear roadways and provide aid to those hit from the storm. "I would have to say at least as long as it did for Hurricane Andrew, and that took months and months". From there, it is projected to remain a tropical storm as it continues eastward across the Atlantic Ocean.

After initially maintaining hurricane strength while barreling inland through Georgia, Michael had weakened to tropic storm status by Thursday morning while churning northeast over SC with maximum winds of 50 miles per hour. The rains are causing flash flooding across parts of North Carolina and southern Virginia.

The storm blew ashore early Wednesday afternoon near Florida's Mexico Beach as a Category 4 hurricane.

The extent of the damage was becoming clear on Thursday as AFP reporters and photographers toured affected areas and United States television networks flew helicopters along the coast. "We'll see winds start to diminish after midnight tonight as the storm moves away". But it's still menacing the Southeast with heavy rains, winds and a threat of spinoff tornadoes.

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