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Hurricane Michael: Falling tree causes first confirmed death

By Daniel Uria and Danielle Haynes
Hurricane Michael: Falling tree causes first confirmed death
Hurricane Michael downed trees and caused flooding throughout Florida before making its way to Georgia. Photo courtesy of the Gadsden County Sheriff's Office

Oct. 10 (UPI) -- A falling tree crashed through a Gadsden County, Fla., house Wednesday, killing one man as Hurricane Michael brought destruction and flooding to Florida, local officials said.

The Gadsden County Sheriff's Office confirmed the death to CNN and WTVY-TV in Dothan, Ala.

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Hurricane Michael made landfall in the Florida Panhandle and Big Bend area as a Category 4 storm Wednesday, bringing destruction and flooding along the coast.

Wind gusts knocked out windows and ripped off portions of buildings in Panama City, Fla. as it moved inland.

RELATED Hurricane Michael nears Alabama, Georgia

Medical Sacred Heart hospital, which had its windows blown in by the storm said it was running off of generators and patients have been moved to safe areas of the facility.

Michael was downgraded to a Category 1 storm as it moved into Georgia, where it was expected to continue to bring dangerous storm surge, hurricane force winds, flash flooding, and possible tornadoes.

Speaking at the White House on Wednesday, President Donald Trump said he had concluded a briefing with Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and FEMA Administrator Brock Long as they monitored the storm.

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RELATED Trump says he will travel to Florida next week to survey hurricane damage

"This is the most powerful recorded storm to hit the Florida Panhandle ever," Trump said. "I just say God Bless everyone because it's going to be a rough one it's going to be a very dangerous one."

Despite the storm, Trump chose not to cancel a scheduled rally in Pennsylvania, saying he "couldn't let these great people down."

"I cannot disappoint the thousands of people that are there -- and the thousands that are going. I look forward to seeing everyone this evening," Trump wrote on Twitter Wednesday afternoon.

RELATED Supplies low, anxiety high in Florida ahead of Hurricane Michael

More than 375,000 residents in 22 counties along the Gulf Coast of Florida were urged or ordered to evacuate but Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Brock Long said some residents weren't able to make it out of the area before declining conditions made it impossible for them to leave, NBC News reported.

"If you failed to heed a warning for any reason, your goal should be to elevate as high as you can and get into a facility that you think can withstand the winds at this point and hope for the best," Long said. "Those who stick around to experience storm surge don't typically live to tell about it, unfortunately."

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Some who stayed behind called for help as bridges were closed long St. George Island, but were told crews would not be able to reach them, the National Weather Service said.

About 310,942 customers in the state were without power as of Wednesday evening, according to PowerOutage.us. Another 92,000 in Georgia and 49,900 in Alabama also were without power.

First responders in Bay County were no longer able to respond to emergencies as of Wednesday morning and Florida Highway Patrol pulled troopers away from coastal areas, saying it was too dangerous for them to remain.

Trump issued a state of emergency Wednesday to free up resources for storm and emergency response and Gov. Rick Scott said more than 3,500 Florida National Guard members were activated for storm response.

Parts of Alabama, Mississippi and the Carolinas are also expected to be hit by the storm as torrential rains, destructive winds and possible tornadoes could extend to areas inland.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed an emergency declaration from Trump allowing preemptive federal assistance for debris removal, more generators and other resources.

Earlier, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal declared a state of emergency for 108 counties and North Carolina, Gov. Roy Cooper also issued a state of emergency before the storm.

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