A day after Hurricane Michael pounded the Florida Panhandle, federal emergency workers are still focused on search and rescue, as the damage from the storm has left some communities isolated by impassable roads and others razed entirely.
At least six deaths have been confirmed from the hurricane, according to the Washington Post. Four were tallied in Gadsden County, west of Tallahassee, according to CNN. One of the victims was a man who died after a tree fell on his home. In Iredell County in North Carolina, a 38-year-old man was killed when a tree fell on a vehicle, according to the Post. In Seminole County, Georgia, an 11-year-old girl died when the winds ripped a carport off the ground and threw it into the house where she sat “right next to her grandmother,” striking her head.
One major point of concern for officials had been the hospitals, which are particularly in need of electricity. They had reason to worry: Emergency officials have evacuated more than 300 patients from storm-damaged hospitals in Panama City, according to the New York Times. Five hospitals total have been closed in the region, along with 11 nursing facilities. After Hurricane Irma, which walloped southern Florida last year, 11 people died from heat-related causes in a nursing home that lost power. Several nursing homes and hospitals in the region are currently operating on generator power.
According to the Times, more than 1 million homes and businesses are currently without power.
Mexico Beach, at the epicenter of the hurricane’s destructive path, saw winds crush entire neighborhoods, and the storm surge swept away entire blocks of homes. Authorities said that 285 people in the city had refused or been unable to evacuate. Florida Gov. Rick Scott said 20 people were rescued from Mexico Beach overnight Wednesday, and he urged those who had evacuated from coastal areas not to try to return until search and rescue teams had completed their work.
Michael, now a tropical storm, was the most powerful storm to hit Florida since Hurricane Andrew in 1992, just shy of a Category 5 but still the third-most powerful hurricane to hit the mainland U.S. on record.
It is expected to cross the Carolinas and leave the coast by early Friday. Virginia declared a state of emergency Thursday, joining Florida, Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, and North Carolina in doing so. Meanwhile, President Trump approved disaster requests for Georgia and Florida to allow federal authorities to coordinate response efforts.
As rescuers move into more devastated areas along the coast and sort through more debris, the death toll is expected to rise.