Death toll from Hurricane Michael reaches 6

Greg Milam in Florida. Pic Sky News and WeatherNation

The devastating storm made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane near Panama City, Florida, around 1:15 p.m. Wednesday and is now cutting through the southern states. While search-and-rescue teams were having difficulty reaching some areas on Thursday, the extent of the damage is slowly becoming clear with the before and after images showing the severe destruction.

Hurricane Michael, the third most powerful storm ever to strike the US mainland, headed northeast on Thursday, weakened but still set to soak Georgia and the Carolinas after devastating the Florida Panhandle.

There are now 495 search-and-rescue officers deployed or en route, as well as 110 firefighters and teams of medics, reconnaissance personnel and mortuary teams deployed.

Hurricane Michael's battering waves swamped streets and docks and shrieking winds splintered trees and rooftops. As of Thursday morning, the storm was centered about 40 miles west-northwest of Columbia, South Carolina, and is headed northeast.

A storm surge warning for the Gulf coast of Florida has been discontinued and a tropical storm warning is no longer in effect along the Georgia and Florida coast south of Altamaha.

In Georgia, an 11-year-old girl died when a vehicle port flipped into the air by a gust of wind landed on her home, Travis Brooks, head of the emergency relief agency in Seminole County, told AFP.

In the coastal community of Panacea, 60 miles (96 km) east of where Michael made landfall, Jasmine McMillan, 42, contemplated the damage at the commercial campground her family owns on Ochlockonee Bay.

North and SC are both still recovering from Hurricane Florence, which left dozens dead and caused billions of dollars in damage last month.

An estimated 6,000 evacuees took cover in emergency shelters, majority in Florida, and that number was expected to swell to 20,000 across five states by week's end, Kieserman said. There are power lines everywhere.

Rob Golding has opened his home in the Springfield Callaway suburb of Panama City to some of his neighbors whose homes were heavily damaged.

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In Wakulla County, the sheriff's office made a list of people who chose to ride out the storm and will check on them Thursday, sheriff's captain Chris Savary said. Aluminum siding was shredded and homes were split by fallen trees.

A Panhandle man was killed by a tree that toppled on a home, Gadsden County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Anglie Hightower said. Television news footage earlier in the day showed floodwaters up to the roofs of many homes in Mexico Beach.

"Kaboom! Like the world moved or something", Lewis said of the moment when the trees snapped while he sheltered inside.

Hurricane Michael is the most powerful hurricane to hit the continental U.S.in more than 50 years.

Michael also disrupted energy operations in the US Gulf of Mexico as it approached land, cutting crude oil production by more than 40% and natural gas output by almost one-third as offshore platforms were evacuated.

State emergency officials said Friday morning that they have canceled, for now, plans to set up a temporary mortuary unit in the Panhandle.

An estimated 6,000 people evacuated to emergency shelters, mostly in Florida, and that number was expected to swell to 20,000 across five states by week's end, Kieserman said. It's here where an 11-year-old girl was killed during the storm.

"She was so handsome and she smiled so much that day", Amber Radney said. Michael was the first Category 4 hurricane to hit the Florida Panhandle.

By late Wednesday, the storm had moved toward Georgia. About eight hours after landfall, Michael was downgraded to a Category 1 storm, with top sustained winds of 90 mph (150 kph).

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