ORLANDO, Florida — As the death toll from one of the most powerful hurricanes to hit the U.S. rose, the Florida Panhandle continued to take in the scope of destruction by Michael.
- JUMP TO:
- Death toll from Hurricane Michael rises to 6 ▼
- Tallahassee mayor: City could be in dark for weeks ▼
- Patrick rescue wing getting ready ▼
- Latest numbers on Michael | Nadine | Leslie | Elsewhere ▼
- LIVE UPDATES: Devastation in Florida Panhandle from Michael
- Airbnb Opens Homes for Hurricane Michael Evacuees
- TRACKING THE TROPICS: Watches, warnings, forecasts, spaghetti models
Tropical Storm Michael was racing across the Carolinas on Thursday, producing high winds and flooding rainfall on its path toward the Atlantic.
Michael has maximum sustained winds of 50 mph and is rapidly moving to the northeast at 25 mph.
The center of Michael will soon move off the coast of Virginia and then begin to race east-northeastward across the northwestern Atlantic Ocean. Tropical storm-force winds extend out 275 miles. The minimum central pressure is 988 mb.
The Tropical Storm Warning has been discontinued west of Cape Lookout, North Carolina.
The following advisories are in effect:
A Storm Surge Watch is in effect for...
- Ocracoke Inlet North Carolina to Duck North Carolina
A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for...
- Cape Lookout North Carolina to Duck North Carolina
- Pamlico and Albemarle Sounds
Rain in Georgia, the Carolinas, and into Virginia could reach 4 to 7 inches, with isolated maximum amounts of 9 inches. This rainfall could lead to life-threatening flash floods, especially over areas hit hard by Florence last month. The storm will pass south of New England tomorrow and just brush the region with heavy rain with 1 to 3 inches.
In Central Florida, breezy winds from the south and southwest will continue to push tropical moisture into the area. Spotty on-and-off showers will be possible today before drier air slides down the peninsula behind Michael by Friday, lasting through the weekend.
Michael made landfall early Wednesday afternoon near Mexico Beach as a major Category 4 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 155 mph. The pressure dropped to 919 mb before landfall, making it stronger than Hurricane Andrew when it made landfall in 1992 with a minimum pressure 922 mb.
According to records going back to 1851, no storm of Category 4 or stronger had ever made landfall in that part of the state. It was the third lowest pressure of a landfalling hurricane in the U.S. on record.
— Maureen McCann and David Heckard
At least 6 dead
Six people were dead so far from Michael after a 38-year-old man was killed by a large tree that fell on his vehicle on Highway 64 east of Statesville, North Carolina.
Four people were killed in Gadsden County, Florida, according to the Sheriff's Office there. The county was under a curfew Thursday.
The first person reported to have been killed was a child in Seminole County, Georgia.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott requested an emergency-major disaster declaration from the White House, which President Donald Trump signed.
Trump is expected to visit the Panhandle on either Sunday or Monday. The president was briefed on the storm before making his way to Pennsylvania for a "Make America Great Again" rally.
— Spectrum News Staff
Tallahassee mayor: City could be in dark for weeks
Gabriella Ferguson was doing her part to clear what she could off the road that runs by her house.
Thanks to Michael, it was impassable. Giant fallen oaks blocked a long stretch of the key thoroughfare in Tallahassee -- a town whose love affair with trees can make life difficult after a storm.
"I didn't come out after the storm. I went to sleep. I came out this morning, and I walked to the park and I saw maybe 30 trees down in the park, another tree covering the road. So (there are) a lot of trees down," Ferguson said.
The trees blocked not just roads – they’ve also taken out power lines.
Crews were working Thursday afternoon to restore power to about 100,000 customers -- a quarter of all the Panhandle outages caused by Michael.
Getting the roads and electric grid back in business was the top priority for Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum.
He said the capital city needs to stand up to offer housing to people displaced by Michael.
The damage was so widespread, it could take weeks to recover from.
But for Darrell Thompson, that’s OK.
"We're lucky. We're lucky right now. It could be a lot worse," he said.
At the Tallahassee airport, state emergency management officials have stockpiled supplies. The supplies were being transported by truck to the Panama City area, which took the brunt of the hurricane.
During Hurricane Hermine two years ago, many people lost power for a few days. But this time around, Gillum is bracing people for the potential to be in the dark for weeks.
— Troy Kinsey
Patrick rescue wing getting ready
Air Force reservists with the 920th Rescue Wing at Patrick Air Force Base are prepping to possibly head to the Panhandle in the aftermath of Michael.
Two HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters took off from Patrick Air Force Base on Thursday morning, along with a C-130 to help with refueling.
The unit began a scouting mission to the Hurricane Michael ravaged Panhandle.
"We are making sure all the commanders in the area have our capabilities for surveillance so they can do an assessment of the terrain and the true damage," Lt. Col. Rocko Rodriguez said.
The 160-person unit specializes in search-and-rescue operations and is trained to save people stranded in Hurricane Michael's aftermath.
Crews are readying more Pave Hawk helicopters and C-130s to be used in relief efforts.
At this point, the group is on standby. But if it gets the call to head to the Panhandle, it can be in the air in two hours.
"(We need to) get into the environment so we can pull people out who are in need, and hopefully show them some hope when we come across that area," Rodriguez said.
The airmen recently helped with relief efforts after Hurricane Florence. During Hurricane Harvey in Texas, they rescued 235 people and 21 pets.
— Greg Pallone
Orange County Crews Head North
A team from the Orange County Sheriff’s Office is in the Panhandle, as 46 deputies hit the road Thursday.
Members of their Emergency Response Team and Marine Unit will be totally self-sufficient with RVs, food, and their own supplies, so they don’t have to take any resources from those affected by the hurricane.
The team is responding to a request for help from the Florida Sheriff's Association Mutual Aid disaster agreement.
This group will be back in 10 days. The Orange County Sheriff’s Office may send another group to replace the team, if needed.
Duke Energy says they’re using helicopters, drones, and other patrols to assess catastrophic damage to their electric system on the Panhandle.
Destroyed substations, power lines, and utility poles must be fixed before power can be fully restored.
Orlando Utility Commission employees are in Tallahassee rebuilding infrastructure and restoring power. They sent 21 employees and 17 trucks to North Florida.
— Cheryn Stone
Elsewhere in the tropics, Tropical Storm Nadine is in the eastern Atlantic and is moving west-northwest at 8 mph with winds of 60 mph. This storm poses no threat to land.
Leslie remains a hurricane with winds of 85 mph. It is located about 780 miles southwest of the Azores. It is moving to the east-northeast at 22 mph.
A tropical storm watch is in effect for Madeira Island. Leslie will continue to move east-northeast with increased speed, taking it across the central and eastern Atlantic. By the weekend, the system is expected to slow down, weaken, and turn toward the east or east-southeast.
We also have an unorganized cluster of thunderstorms in the western Caribbean with a medium potential for formation during the next five days. If it develops, it will be given the name Oscar.
Atlantic hurricane season runs through November 30.
Before-and-after satellite images
In these images taken by a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration satellite, the path of destruction can be seen as Hurricane Michael made landfall at Mexico Beach, Florida and traveled northeast: