At least 12 people were killed in the states of Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia as Hurricane Michael continues its rampage after it slammed into Florida’s northwest coast on Friday, officials said.
Hurricane Michael made landfall on Wednesday as a Category 4 on the five-step Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale, near the small panhandle town of Mexico beach with terrifying winds of up to 155 miles per hour (250 km per hour), pushing the sea water inland and causing widespread flooding.
Despite the fact that Hurricane Michael—one the most powerful hurricanes in US history, weakened as it moved over the southeastern United States, authorities expect an increase in the death toll.
“I expect the fatality count to climb today and tomorrow,” Brock Long, head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), told CNN. “Hopefully it doesn’t rise dramatically but it does remain a possibility,” he added.
According to the National Hurricane Center, Michael had moved into the Atlantic Ocean northeast of Norfolk, Virginia by early Friday morning.
As reported by news agency Reuters, emergency services carried out dozens of rescue operations that majorly involved rescuing people caught in the moving floodwaters in North Carolina on Thursday. Around 1.1 million homes and businesses were reported to be without power from Florida to Virginia, according to utility companies.
Brad Kieserman of the American Red Cross was quoted by Reuters saying, “The number of people in emergency shelters was expected to swell to 20,000 across five states by Friday.”
With a low barometric pressure recorded at 919 millibars (a measure of a hurricane’s force), Michael was the third strongest storm on record to hit the United States. It is behind only Hurricane Camille that hit the Mississippi Gulf Coast in 1969 and the Labor Day hurricane of 1935 that made landfall in the Florida Keys.
(Inputs from Reuters)