Hurricane Michael: Girl, 11, dies as tree falls on home

Search and rescue crews are set to escalate their efforts to reach the areas hardest hit by Hurricane Michael, the strongest storm to hit Florida in decades.

The category four monster brought torrential rain, powerful 155mph winds and towering waves to Florida – but it has weakened to a tropical storm as it makes its way to Georgia.

At least two people have died. According to local reports, an 11-year-old girl was killed after a tree fell onto her home in Georgia on Wednesday.

A man also died after a tree fell into his home on the Florida Panhandle, the northwestern stretch of the state which bore the brunt of Hurricane Michael’s strength.

Officials said emergency crews were slowed down in their efforts to reach his home because of downed power lines and blocked roads.

Hurricane Michael had hit Florida’s Panhandle region earlier on Wednesday, with sustained winds reaching 155mph (249kph) – just 2mph short of category five standard.

But its strength soon diminished and it was downgraded to a category one storm eight hours later, with top winds of 90mph (150kph).

Hundreds of thousands of people in 20 counties had been told to leave their homes before the hurricane arrived and those left behind faced uprooted trees, power cuts and severe flooding.

Footage of Mexico Beach showed water up to the roofs of homes and some buildings ripped from foundations.

Boats that were docked are seen in a pile of rubble after hurricane Michael passed through the downtown area on October 10, 2018 in Panama City, Florida
Image:Strong winds and heavy rain have caused chaos in the southern state

Michael’s intensification in the hours leading up to Wednesday caught many by surprise.

“Satellite images of Michael’s evolution on Tuesday night were, in a word, jaw-dropping,” wrote Bob Henson, a meteorologist with weather site Weather Underground.

It is not known what happened to almost 300 residents who refused to flee.

Bo Patterson, the mayor of Port St Joe, south of Mexico Beach, was among 2,500 people there who defied evacuation orders.

He said: “It feels like you don’t know when the next tree is going to fall on top of you because its blowing so ferociously.

“It’s very, very scary. We have trees being uprooted, heavy, heavy rain.”

Officials said said Michael was the most intense hurricane seen in the Florida Panhandle.

“We are in new territory,” Miami-based National Hurricane Centre (NHC) meteorologist Dennis Feltgen wrote on Facebook.

“The historical record, going back to 1851, finds no category four hurricane ever hitting the Florida panhandle.”

As many as 20,000 people are expected to be in emergency shelters in the state by the end of the week.

More than 403,000 homes and businesses are without power in Florida and in Georgia and Alabama, which have also been badly affected by the storm.

Hurricane Michael from the International Space Station. Pic: ISS
Image:Hurricane Michael seen from the International Space Station. Pic: ISS

For the affected part of Georgia, the hurricane is the worst in history and has reportedly started tornadoes.

The storm is also expected to batter North and South Carolina both still recovering from Hurricane Florence, which left dozens dead and caused billions of dollars in damage last month.

Mike Lindsey stands in his antique shop after the winds from hurricane Michael broke the windows in his shop on October 10, 2018 in Panama City
Image:Mike Lindsey assesses the damage in his antique shop in Panama City

It was downgraded further to a tropical storm on Thursday morning while over central Georgia.

The White House has said US president Donald Trump will tour affected areas next week.

source: Sky News