Michael downgraded to tropical storm, kills 2 in Florida

NOAA via AP

Downgraded to a tropical storm early Thursday over south Georgia, it continued to weaken overnight but was still menacing the Southeast with heavy rains, blustery winds and possible spinoff tornadoes. "Panama City, I don't know if there will be much left".

People in coastal parts of 20 Florida counties had been told to head to safer locations, but by Wednesday morning were told it was too late to flee.

Jerry Nelson, born and raised outside Panama City, was stunned at the destruction.

Utility crews from Gulf Power, Duke Energy Florida, Florida Power & Light and public utilities have lined up more than 19,000 workers from their own crews and through mutual-aid agreements with companies across the South and Midwest. A man was killed by a falling tree in Tallahassee. It's very, very scary.

"This happened so quickly, we weren't exactly prepared", he said.

As Michael hit Panama City as a Category 4, storm chaser Dan Robinson caught video of the worst of it.

The Greensboro man's death came after Florida Gov. Rick Scott said at a press conference Wednesday night that there had been no reported fatalities yet. "The historical record, going back to 1851, finds no Category 4 hurricane ever hitting the Florida Panhandle".

A structure in Panama City Beach was no match for Michael's winds, as the home under construction collapsed an hour prior to the Category 4 storm's eyewall coming ashore. The storm had top sustained winds of 60 miles per hour (96 kph) and was moving to the northeast at 20 miles per hour (32 kph).

More than 40 percent of daily crude oil production and more than one-third of natural gas output was lost from offshore US Gulf of Mexico wells on Wednesday because of platform evacuations and shut-ins caused by Michael.

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At least three towns closed schools and hundreds of people were given shelter in sport facilities. Spanish authorities said 80 soldiers would join more than 100 rescuers working in the area.

President Donald Trump has been in touch with state governors and said a federal emergency team is standing by and ready to help with storm recovery. He was briefed by FEMA's Long in the Oval Office on preparations.

More than 500,000 homes and businesses in Florida, Georgia and Alabama have been left without power as the storm moves north east before ending up in the Atlantic by Friday. He called for 100 percent federal cost share on debris removal in affected counties for the next 60 days, and also asked for transitional housing assistance.

Even before landfall, the hurricane disrupted energy operations in the Gulf, cutting crude oil production by more than 40 percent and natural gas output by almost one-third as offshore platforms were evacuated before the storm hit.

The governors of North and SC urged residents to brace for heavy rain and storm-force winds as Michael plowed northward up the Atlantic seaboard.

"I'm anxious about my daughter and grandbaby". "We're kind of nervous".

'Oh my God, what are we seeing?'

Forecasters said it will unleash damaging wind and rain all the way into the Carolinas, which are still recovering from Hurricane Florence's epic flooding.

Catastrophe risk modelling and analysis firm Corelogic has just released an estimate of the insured losses from storm surge and hurricane force winds, which is based on the landfall factors hence this is not a post-landfall estimate of industry losses. Up to a foot (30 cm) of rainfall was forecast for some areas.

Before the storm made landfall, Scott said he activated 3,500 members of the Florida National Guard.

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