Oct. 11 (UPI) — The death toll from Hurricane Michael rose to six on Thursday as about a million people were without power in six states.
A 38-year-old man was killed Thursday when a large tree fell on his vehicle on Highway 64, east of Statesville, North Carolina, Iredell County Fire Marshal David Souther said, CNN reported.
Four other people were killed in Florida, including one man who was killed by a falling tree.
An 11-year-old girl in southwestern Georgia also died when a tree fell on her home, officials said.
President Donald Trump and emergency director Brock Long pushed on Thursday the federal response to Hurricane Michael, a day after it slammed northwest Florida.
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. O
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.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency said it will focus efforts on rescuing those trapped by flooding and other damage.
FEMA director Brock Long said in a Thursday briefing Mexico Beach took the brunt of the storm and is “ground zero.” Some hospitals and other medical facilities were damaged, but he said hospitals would only be evacuated in a worse-case scenario.
Hurricane Michael also cut power to more than 200,000 people in the Florida Panhandle, including many who may not get it back for weeks.
“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,” Long said.
Michael was downgraded to a tropical storm and is moving toward the Carolinas, an area already hit hard this year by Hurricane Florence. Long urged residents in the Carolinas to heed warnings and take the tropical storm seriously.
At least 1,085,356 people in six states were without power according to local power and energy agencies. As many as 389,639 customers in Florida, 484,487 customers in North Carolina, 117,000 customers in Georgia, 24,000 customers in Alabama, 9,163 customers in South Carolina and 61,067 customers in Virginia.
Gulf Power, which provides electricity to northwest Florida, said it had about 112,000 customers without power. Electric line workers from multiple states are in Florida to help restore service. Duke Energy reported Thursday at least 31,000 customers are without power in the Panhandle.
The City of Tallahassee restored power to some customers but still had more than 111,000 without service by early Thursday.
“We anticipate that number to continue to grow as neighbors continue to report outages and our system monitoring assets are returned to service,” Tallahassee Commissioner Scott Maddox said in a Facebook post.
10-11 6:25 AM Outage Report pic.twitter.com/q9V2zgkN7Q- Florida SERT (@FLSERT) October 11, 2018
The American Red Cross is providing food, water and shelter to more than 7,000 people. Many people will not be able to return to their homes.
Charles Alexander, director of contingency operations for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said there was no significant damage to dams or levies.
Secretary of Health and Human Services 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.
In a series of tweets overnight, Florida Gov. Rick Scott urged patience as power crews work to restore electricity.
“We are going to be aggressive with recovery and response over the coming days and will do everything we can to assist our communities that have seen impacts from this devastating storm,” he said. “Again, it is imperative for you to stay indoors as our first responders arrive. The roads need to be clear so they can respond as needed without interference.”
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.