Oct. 12 (UPI) — The death toll from Hurricane Michael rose to 11 on Friday, as more than 1.5 million people in six states remain without electricity.
The former Category 4 storm is now a post tropical cyclone in the Atlantic Ocean. The outer bands are still dumping rain and producing damaging winds over North Carolina. Michael made landfall near Mexico Beach, Fla., Wednesday with 155 mph winds — just below Category 5 strength — and peeled off roofs, flooded streets and uprooted trees.
The storm has killed at least 11 people, mostly from trees falling onto houses. Among the dead is an 11-year-old Georgia girl, officials said.
The American Red Cross has 500 disaster relief workers are providing food, water and shelter to victims of the storm.
Charles Alexander, director of contingency operations for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said there is no significant damage to dams or levees.
U.S. Health Secretary Alex Azar declared a public health emergency in Florida, offering flexibility to patients on Medicaid and Medicare. HHS offered assistance to patients who rely on ventilators, dialysis and other medical equipment that needs electricity. The federal agency will also provide hundreds of medical professionals to the area.
Storm surges were the greatest threat for coastal areas, with the largest recorded at 14 feet.
The largest blackouts are in North Carolina, where officials said more than 730,000 customers are without power. That figure is 326,000 in Florida and 133,000 in Georgia.
Two hospitals in Panama City, Fla., where Michael arrived Wednesday, were evacuated due to damage. The Bay Medical Center Sacred Heart moved 200 patients, including 39 critically ill.
Some Floridians returned to their homes to assess damage late Thursday. Deidre Hawthorne’s family stayed in a shelter during the storm and returned to find their home still standing — but with fallen trees blocking the front door.
Walls and windows were sucked out of a Holiday Inn in Panama City, where many evacuees were sheltered. Shards of glass and pieces of clothing could be seen all over the hotel. Cellular service is limited and there’s no Internet access at all, officials said.
President Donald Trump on Thursday approved disaster declarations for four Florida counties, clearing the way for federal aid to the hardest hit areas. That includes grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans for uninsured property losses and other programs to help with recovery.
FEMA director Brock Long said Thursday Mexico Beach, Fla., took the brunt of the storm and is “ground zero.”
“Anytime you have a significant storm surge event, roadways and bridges are greatly impacted and you have to survey those before you move power crews in,” he said.