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Death toll from Hurricane Michael expected to rise as first responders search for victims

Kathy Coy stands among what is left of her home after Hurricane Michael destroyed it on October 11, 2018 in Panama City, Florida. She said she was in the home when it was blown apart and is thankful to be alive. The hurricane hit the Florida Panhandle as a category 4 storm. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Officials have blamed Hurricane Michael for the deaths of two people as first responders search for victims in the destruction left in its wake. Authorities expect the death toll to rise as the storm continues to push through the southeast.

What are the details?

Michael hit the Florida panhandle as a Category 4 hurricane Wednesday afternoon, with 155 mph winds and heavy rain. The New York Times reported that Michael was downgraded to a tropical storm at midnight, after leaving much of the coast in ruins.

Reporting from a helicopter in the aftermath, CNN's Brooke Baldwin said while flying over the town of Mexico Beach, Florida: "It's gone. It's gone."

The Associated Press reported that across Florida, Alabama, Georgia, and the Carolinas, more than 800,000 customers were without power as of Thursday morning. Authorities have been unable to fully assess the damage due to debris blocking roadways, and cell service is unavailable in some areas.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott encouraged people to stay home while crews moved in to begin repairing damaged infrastructure and search for victims.

"We are deploying a massive wave of response, and those efforts are already underway," Scott told reporters. "Help is coming by air, land, and sea."

Authorities confirmed that a man outside Tallahassee was killed by a fallen tree, and an 11-year-old Georgia girl was killed when winds threw a carport onto the roof of her home.

FEMA chief Brock Long told the Times that he's concerned that the death toll will rise as first responders are able to reach areas where residents did not evacuate.

Hurricane Michael is the third-strongest hurricane to hit the continental U.S. The weakening storm on Thursday continued to barrel through the Carolinas, where many areas are still recovering from the damage done by Hurricane Florence.

"The people in North and South Carolina have been through it," Long said. "This isn't going to help."

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