Hurricane Michael — which made landfall on Wednesday, October 10 — has already caused loss of life, Express is reporting. The Category 4 hurricane is the biggest storm to hit Florida in 80 year, and the biggest storm to hit the Florida Panhandle ever recorded. In addition, this is the third largest storm to have hit the entire continental United States, only topped by Hurricane Camille in 1969 and the “Labor Day Hurricane” of 1935. With winds documented as reaching 155 mph, Michael is only 2 mph short of being a Category 5 hurricane. As the storm headed over the Gulf of Mexico, homes in Mexico Beach were flooded.
Now, 280 residents who did not evacuate have yet to be located. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) said on Tuesday, October 9 that around 500,000 people within 20 counties had been ordered to move to higher ground. According to Brad Kieserman of the American Red Cross, up to 320,000 people chose not to leave. 6,000 people, mostly in Florida, were reported taking emergency shelter — and that number is expected to grow to a whopping 20,000 by the end of the week.
As of Thursday, October 11, the hurricane has been officially downgraded to a tropical storm. Unfortunately, catastrophic damage has already occurred. One person has already been reported as dead due to the storm, with a tree crashing through a “male subject’s” house in Greensboro, Florida — killing him. This is the first documented fatality attributed to Hurricane Michael.
With the storm arriving on Wednesday evening, over 403,000 homes and businesses have reported losing power as of that night throughout Florida, Georgia, and Alabama. President Donald Trump has officially declared a state of emergency in Florida, and 3,500 Florida National Guard troops as well as 1,000 search-and-rescue workers have been sent out. The Pentagon has also set up over 2,200 members of the military to be prepared with helicopters, high-water vehicles and swift-water boats to assist.
Georgia and the Carolinas, who are still recovering from Hurricane Florence, are being encouraged to brace themselves for heavy wind and rain as the storm heads their way. As Hurricane Michael made its path of destruction, residents who did not evacuate were shocked by the storm’s strength. Bo Patterson, mayor of Port St. Joe, described the scene as “very, very scary.” Panama City resident Bill Manning was quoted as saying “My God, it’s scary. I didn’t expect all this.”
As NBC News reports, many in Panama City are echoing this sentiment, declaring that they never would have stayed put had they known the devastating power that Michael was to bring.