At least 11 people have died in the wake of Hurricane Michael, which tore through the southeastern United States at a devastating clip, destroying parts of the Florida Panhandle before ticking all the way up to Virginia in less than 48 hours.
Four people in Virginia were swept away in floodwaters, while a fifth person in that state, the firefighter Lt. Brad Clark, was killed in a highway crash while responding to an accident. One of the four people killed, James E. King Jr., was killed when he was caught in a flash flood Thursday in Pittsylvania County, according to the Washington Post. Details are not yet available on the other three deaths.
Brian Cooper, 38, was killed Thursday in North Carolina after a tree fell on the vehicle he was driving in Iredell County, according to the local Fox affiliate.
In Georgia, an 11-year-old girl named Sarah died after a metal carport was flung into the air by hurricane-force winds, hitting her grandparents’ mobile home. Wednesday “night was just hell,” Roy Radney, Sarah’s father, told the New York Times. “I’m an hour and a quarter away, and my daughter’s dying, and I can’t do anything about it. I can’t think of anything that is more related to hell than that.”
In Florida, the Gadsden County Sheriff’s Office has reported four deaths relating to the storm. According to the Tallahassee Democrat, Steve Sweet died Wednesday after an oak tree smashed through his roof. The 44-year-old was crushed, and first responders were not able to recover his body until Thursday evening due to extensive damage in the neighborhood. It’s not yet clear how the other three Gadsden County residents died.
Officials fear the death toll may rise as first responders return to the Florida Panhandle to survey the devastation. According to the Florida National Guard, there are serious communication issues in the area, and hundreds of thousands of people are still without power across the Southeast. Since the storm was fast-moving and initially considered a Category 2 storm before it swelled to a Category 4, many in the Florida Panhandle and Big Bend area stayed in place for what turned into the most powerful hurricane to hit the continental U.S. in 50 years. Some of the worst damage is centered around Florida’s Mexico Beach, where Hurricane Michael hit as a Category 4 storm Wednesday afternoon.
In nearby Panama City, the Bay County Emergency Services office said on Facebook that “many people are either looking for loved ones or looking for a way to let loved ones know they are okay.”
Donald Spears, manager of Bay Oaks Village Mobile Home Park in Panama City, told VICE News that he’s heard his trailer park is “not in good shape.” He plans to return Friday afternoon, if he can — he evacuated to a hotel in Montgomery, Alabama before the storm and was still there Friday morning.
“There are three homes for sure that are leveled,” Spears said. “But nobody was hurt.”
Cover image: A highway sign lays on debris from an office building damaged after Hurricane Michael hit in Panama City, Florida, U.S., on Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018. The storm made landfall Wednesday in the Florida Panhandle, where most of the damage occurred. The storm brought winds of 155 miles (249 kilometers) per hour, the fourth-strongest hurricane ever to reach the U.S. mainland. Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images