Rescues, damage in Florida after hurricane — WHAT’S HAPPENING

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Michael hit the Florida panhandle as a Category 4 hurricane Wednesday afternoon, with 155 miles per hour winds and heavy rain.

Red Cross officials say 7,800 people were in 100 shelters across three states.

An estimated 375,000 people in more than 20 counties were ordered or advised to evacuate.

At least two deaths have been reported from Michael, which made landfall on Wednesday afternoon as a Category 4 storm and has since been downgraded to a tropical storm as it moves into the Carolinas. He said the storm was "unbelievably destructive and powerful" and he plans to visit the area next week.

Scott said he talked to Trump early Thursday. That represents an enormous reservoir of extra potential hurricane energy, beyond what the warm Gulf already provides anyway this time of year.

Heavy rains are forecast for the Carolinas, which were drenched by Hurricane Florence last month.

Since the storm hit, residents of Panama City have seen their homes collapse, their roads flooded, and their storefront windows shattered.

The hurricane damaged hospitals and nursing homes in the Panama City area, and state officials brought in ambulances to evacuate patients. Wind damage was also evident. His office said he would tour the devastated areas next week. Roofs were peeled away and sent airborne. One of the carport's legs punctured the roof and hit the 11-year-old girl in the head. She said authorities got a call Wednesday evening that the man was trapped but rescue crews were hampered by downed trees and debris blocking roadways. But he said the sheriff told him it looked like a bomb had gone off.

Gale to storm-force winds are predicted to hit parts of Virginia, North Carolina and the Delmarva Peninsula as Michael turns post-tropical.

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

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The rain is accompanied by strong winds, which when combined with high tides may lead to some coastal impacts due to large waves. There is also the risk of further severe Southerly winds impinging onto Southern and Eastern coastal areas during the day.

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People in the crosshairs had to make last-minute preparations for the monstrous storm's arrival - and for how to cope in its aftermath.

Michael, Nelson said, "picked up in a short period that extra strength fuel from that hot water in the Gulf of Mexico and then that was what was so surprising to everybody and so deadly as it approached the coast".

Northwest Florida Daily News reporter Annie Blanks tweeted video footage of seawater flowing inside the Dewey Destin's seafood restaurant near Mexico Beach.

The unforgettable thing about record-setting Hurricane Michael will always be how rapidly it became a near-Category 5 storm, perfectly timed for a sneak-attack on the Florida panhandle.

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. They reported seeing many destroyed homes, some with staircases leading to doors suspended 10 feet in the air with nothing on the other side, and entire structures washed away. Refrigerators and toilets and piles of soggy furniture are strewn across properties. But some people were determined to ride out the hurricane.

Families tentatively emerged from darkened shelters and hotels to this unfamiliar and perilous landscape, under a perfectly clear blue sky, to the sounds of a Coast Guard helicopter hovering over damaged neighborhoods, beeping security alarms and the occasional sirens of police and fire department vehicles. Accuweather predicted Michael's total damage and economic impact will reach close to $30 billion, which would make it one of the 10 costliest hurricanes in USA history. The vast majority of that wetness fell in the Yadkin-Pee Dee river basin, resulting in historic flooding of several rivers in the Pee Dee and Grand Strand regions of the Palmetto State. An 80-mile stretch of Interstate 10, the main east-west route along the Panhandle, was closed.

FEMA's Long said he's anxious the number of deaths will rise Thursday. From there, it is projected to remain a tropical storm as it continues eastward across the Atlantic Ocean. National Hurricane Center (NHC).

"Tropical storm wind gusts will continue across much of SC and central and eastern North Carolina, with sustained tropical storm force winds expected along the coast of the Carolinas", the agency said.

Hurricane Michael is forecast to be the largest hurricane on record to impact the Panhandle and Big Bend area of Florida.

Vance Beu, 29, was staying with his mother at her home at Spring Gate Apartments, a complex of single-story wood-frame buildings. It also was an October icon - the strongest continental United States hurricane to make an October landfall based on maximum sustained winds at 155 miles per hour.

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