Hurricane Michael brings new threat to Florida's victims: toxic red tide

Olive Hawkins
October 12, 2018

CNN's John Berman and Dianne Gallagher report from Panama City Beach, Florida, as Hurricane Michael approaches landfall.

Tropical Storm Michael took its drenching rains to Georgia and the Carolinas on Thursday after battering Florida's Panhandle as the third most powerful hurricane ever to strike the U.S. mainland and killing at least two people.

Sally Crown rode out Michael on the Panhandle thinking at first the worst damage was the many trees downed in her yard.

As we drove through mile after mile of swamp and pines, power and clearance crews worked in the heat.

Authorities said at least two people have died, a man killed by a tree falling on a Panhandle home and an 11-year-old girl killed by a tree falling on a home in southwest Georgia. The area is known for its small beach towns, wildlife reserves and the state capital, Tallahassee.

Hurricane Michael was a fickle beast.

Almost 850,000 homes and businesses were without power in Florida, Alabama, the Carolinas and Georgia on Thursday.

As the storm heads over North Carolina and Virginia, heavy rain is forecast with up to nine inches of rain forecast for those two states.

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The hurricane, one of the most powerful hurricanes ever to strike the US mainland, left at least two people dead. Gulf Coast Regional Medical Center was treating some, but the hospital evacuated 130 patients as it faced challenges running on generators after the storm knocked out power, ripped off part of its roof and smashed windows, according to a spokesman for the hospital's owner, HCA Healthcare Inc (HCA.N).

"The wind that came through here was surreal".

But many people living in counties farther east in North Central Florida were spared.

Search and rescue teams have been deployed the hardest hit areas, including Panama City and Mexico Beach. Wind damage was also evident. "If Hurricane Michael moves that algae onto land, it gets spread out, it doesn't get sustained", Frank Muller-Karger, professor of biological oceanography at the University of Maryland, told Bloomberg.

With a low barometric pressure recorded at 919 millibars, the measure of a hurricane's force, it ranked as the third strongest storm on record to make landfall in the continental United States.

Michael was also top of mind for President Donald Trump at a campaign rally in Pennsylvania.

A day after the Category 4 monster blew ashore along the Panhandle with 155 miles per hour winds, the Coast Guard said it rescued at least 27 people, mostly from homes damaged along the Florida coastline, and searched for more victims.

The storm is now the most powerful hurricane on record to strike the Florida Panhandle.

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