First known fatality reported from Hurricane Michael's rampage
PANAMA CITY, Florida (AP) —
Hurricane Michael has left extensive damage in Panama City, with broken and uprooted trees and power lines down nearly everywhere. Roofs were peeled off and homes split open by fallen trees. Twisted street signs lay on the ground. Residents emerged early Wednesday evening to assess damage when rains stopped, though skies were still overcast and windy.
A pine tree punched a hole in the roof of the apartment where 29-year-old Vance Beu was staying with his mother. The roar of the storm sounded like a jet engine as the wind accelerated, and their ears popped as pressure dropped.
Beu said, “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. We did whatever we could to kind of hunker down.”
Authorities say a Florida Panhandle man was killed by a falling tree as Hurricane Michael tore through the state.
Gadsden County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Anglie Hightower says they received a call around 6 p.m. Wednesday, saying a tree had crashed through the roof of the man’s Greensboro home and trapped him. Emergency crews were heading to the home, but downed power lines and blocked roads were making the trip difficult.
Officials hadn’t immediately confirmed the man’s name.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott says search and rescue teams are heading into the state’s hardest-hit areas to help survivors of Hurricane Michael.
Scott held a news conference Wednesday evening and urged people to stay off roads and leave them open to first responders as they begin the work of search and rescue — and recovery.
He says flash flooding and tornadoes are still possible, and says officials have heard reports of at least two tornadoes in Florida.
Scott said at least 192,000 homes and businesses are without power, but vowed “a massive wave of response” with thousands of utility personnel fanning out to restore power, along with medical teams, law enforcement personnel and the search and rescue squads.
More than 32,000 homes and businesses in Georgia were without power Wednesday evening as parts of the state were beginning to feel the impact from Hurricane Michael.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports Georgia Power said around 4:30 p.m. that 17,580 customers had lost power. Georgia EMC said that about 15,376 of its customers were also without power.
For Georgia EMC, most of its affected customers were in five counties in southwest Georgia, where more than 13,500 customers were without power. In metro Atlanta, just 17 customers were without power.
In an email, an EMC spokesperson said winds had caused trees to fall onto power lines, prompting the outages.
As of Wednesday evening, Hurricane Michael was a Category 3 storm. It made landfall in Florida as a Category 4 storm around 1:40 p.m.
The National Hurricane Center says Michael’s eye has crossed from the Florida Panhandle into southwestern Georgia as a dangerous Category 3 storm, the strongest to hit that part of the state in recorded history.
Maximum sustained winds of 115 mph (185 kph) were recorded in Seminole County, Georgia, Wednesday evening. The storm made landfall near Mexico Beach, Florida, as a catastrophic Category 4 hurricane earlier Wednesday afternoon.
According to a 6 p.m. advisory, the storm was located 20 miles (32 kilometers) west-northwest of Bainbridge, Georgia, and 50 miles (80 kilometers) southwest of Albany, Georgia. It was moving north-northeast at 13 mph (21 kph).
Dangerous storm surge continues along the coast of the Florida Panhandle.