Hurricane Michael kills 17 in U.S., death toll expected to rise

Hurricane Michael update: at least 13 killed, including firefighter as crews search for survivors

Weakening Hurricane Michael Swirls Over North Carolina in Satellite Images

A man in Florida captured eerie blue skies and sunshine inside the eye of monster Hurricane Michael as it passed over him Wednesday afternoon. The storm hacked a trail of catastrophic destruction in Georgia, the Carolinas and Virginia before finally heading back out over water.

At least seven people were killed by falling trees and other hurricane-related incidents in Florida, Georgia and North Carolina, according to state officials.

Michael has since been downgraded to a tropical storm as it moves through the Carolinas, which are still recovering from last month's Hurricane Florence.

The IRS said Friday it's offering relief "to any Major Disaster Declaration area designated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as qualifying for either individual or public assistance".

Hundreds of thousands of people remain without electricity in Florida, Georgia and Virginia, and officials say that, even with line crews arriving from across the country, it could be weeks before power is fully restored.

Michael was one of the most powerful hurricanes to ever make landfall in the U.S. While most residents fled ahead of the storm's arrival, others stayed to face the hurricane.

As one Panama City, Fla., resident told NPR's Debbie Elliott, "This whole town's destroyed".

He spoke Friday as his team was winding down its two-day search of Mexico Beach, the town of about 1,000 people that was almost obliterated by Micahel's storm surge and devastating 155 miles per hour (249 kph) winds when the Category 4 hurricane made landfall Wednesday.

FEMA's Long urged communities such as Mexico Beach, where many homes were obliterated by 12 to 14 feet (3.7 to 4.3 meters) of storm surge, to rebuild to withstand future storms.

Florida will give each of the impacted county 200 generators, so they can power their traffic lights, Scott said.

The number of people missing in Florida is unclear.

U.S. Army personnel used heavy equipment to push a path through debris in Mexico Beach to allow rescuers through to search for trapped residents, survivors or casualties, as Blackhawk helicopters circled overhead. "It was the most handsome, secret location you could have for a vacation". As Greg reports, "The storm blew off much of the roof, but the nightmare, as he calls it, didn't end there".

With a low barometric pressure recorded at 919 millibars, a measure of a hurricane's force, Michael was the third strongest storm on record to hit the continental United States, behind only Hurricane Camille on the Mississippi Gulf Coast in 1969 and the Labor Day hurricane of 1935 in the Florida Keys. A neighbor's home across the street got shoved off its foundation.

"This is a war zone". Hanson asked. "This city is destroyed". "If we're going to rebuild, do it right". Numerous 600 families who live there had followed orders to pack what they could in a single suitcase as they were evacuated before the storm.

Rescue crews were still working on search and rescue into the weekend due to the Category 4 hurricane.

"It's a wipeout", he said on Friday, adding that he plans to sell up.

The interior of a Family Dollar Store that had the storefront ripped off is seen in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael in Millville, Fla.

"It is our worst dream being realized", Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black said. "For me the cotton crop is as bad as it gets. You can not tell where he stopped harvest and where the rest of it was being harvested by the storm".

"I have had employees going to the communities where our kids live, going door to door and checking", Principal Britt Smith said by phone.

Five people died in Virginia.

In addition, a firefighter was killed when a tractor-trailer rear-ended a fire engine that was at the scene of a auto accident on Interstate 295 in the Richmond area, according to the Virginia State Police.

REC said all of its remaining customers could expect service restoration by Saturday evening.

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