Hurricane Michael Devastates Florida, Two Dead

People look on at a damaged store after Hurricane Michael passed through

People look on at a damaged store after Hurricane Michael passed through

A day after making landfall near Mexico Beach in Florida as a Category 4 monster packing 155 miles per hour winds, Tropical Storm Michael continued to weaken but was still threatening the Southeast with heavy rains, heavy winds and possible spinoff tornadoes.

FEMA Administrator Brock Long said early Thursday that "search and rescue is where we are hyper-focused this morning" - particularly in Mexico Beach, Florida, which "was wiped out" by Hurricane Michael's storm surge, he said.

Just a few weeks ago, Hurricane Florence made landfall on September 14 near Wrightsville Beach, NC.

Gen, Terrence O'Shaughnessy, commander of the North American Aerospace Defense Command, said some Florida residents may have been taken by surprise by the rapid escalation of the storm.

Shocking video footage from ABC News shows the moment a hotel roof collapsed as pounding winds and coastal flooding caused havoc in Panama City. Those numbers are added to the 350,000 accounts without power in Florida, and more than 160,000 in Georgia.

An 80-mile stretch of Interstate 10, the main east-west route along the Florida Panhandle - the northwestern stretch of the state which bore the brunt of Michael's strength - was closed because of debris.

"Heavy rain and tropical storm force winds are heading our way", he said.

He spoke with CNN's Brooke Baldwin live on air Thursday, in front of a home that was pushed onto its side.

On its current track the storm is headed for the Carolinas, where cities and towns are still recovering from Hurricane Florence last month.

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At 11 a.m., the center of the storm was 35 miles of Charlotte, North Carolina.

Roy Radney, 37, was more than an hour away when he got the call from his brother that his daughter Sarah had been struck in the head by a mobile carport leg that blew through the roof of his parents' southwest Georgia home Wednesday.

Death toll rises: At least 2 people were killed in storm-related incidents since Wednesday.

The National Hurricane Center downgraded Michael to a tropical storm early Thursday, saying its maximum winds had dropped below the threshold for a hurricane.

In his letter posted on the base's website, Laidlaw says crews need to clear trees from roads, fix power lines and "assess the structural integrity of our buildings" before anyone returns.

"I know you just want to go home". Though most homes were still standing, no property was left undamaged. More than 375,000 people up and down the Gulf Coast were ordered or urged to clear out as Michael closed in.

At least 1,085,356 people in six states were without power according to local power and energy agencies. They said it could take weeks before it's safe for personnel and their families to return.

But even as affected communities evaluate the damage left in the storm's wake, weather satellites continued to monitor Michael's progress.

The storm tore entire neighbourhoods apart, reducing homes and businesses to piles of wood and siding, damaging roads and leaving scenes of devastation that resembled the aftermath of a carpet-bombing operation. Total damages from storm surge are estimated to be $3.7 billion, of which about ten percent will be insured.

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