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

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

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

Hurricane Michael's powerful winds and devastating storm surge wreaked havoc in Panama City Beach, Florida.

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

Among those brought to safety were nine people rescued by helicopter from a bathroom of their Panama City home after their roof collapsed, Petty Officer 3rd Class Ronald Hodges said.

Utilities in Georgia, where Michael remained at hurricane strength as it move across much of the state, also reported more than 300,000 customers offline early Thursday.

Roofs were peeled away and sent airborne.

Search and rescue teams have been deployed the hardest hit areas, including Panama City and Mexico Beach. The National Guard entered Mexico Beach on Wednesday night and found 20 people who had remained in the town through the storm, the governor said. A year ago, the school welcomed students and families displaced by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.

Hurricane Michael's battering waves swamped streets and docks and shrieking winds splintered trees and rooftops.

Michael has since been downgraded to a tropical storm, with maximum sustained wind speeds of 50mph.

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Tropical Storm Michael took its drenching rains to Georgia and the Carolinas on Thursday after battering Florida's Panhandle as the third most powerful hurricane ever to strike the USA mainland and killing at least two people.

Hurricane Michael was a fickle beast.

They turned out to be correct, as warm ocean waters and a lack of wind shear - which are powerful opposing winds that can topple hurricanes - set the stage for the storm's intensification.

Parts of Virginia were struck with heavy rains and flash flooding, said Jeff Caldwell, a spokesman for the state Department of Emergency Management.

Activists say the anti-environment policies of the Florida governor, Rick Scott, who they have nicknamed Red Tide Rick, are at least partly responsible for the unprecedented scale of this year's outbreak of a naturally occurring phenomenon. Gulf Coast Regional Medical Center was treating some, but the hospital evacuated 130 patients as it faced challenges running on generators after the storm knocked out power, ripped off part of its roof and smashed windows, according to a spokesman for the hospital's owner, HCA Healthcare Inc (HCA.N).

Nearly 1.2 million homes and businesses were without power from Florida to Virginia on Thursday because of the storm.

Michael also disrupted energy operations in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico as it approached land, cutting crude oil production by more than 40 percent and natural gas output by almost one-third as offshore platforms were evacuated.

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