At least two people have died after Hurricane Michael made landfall in the Florida Panhandle Wednesday afternoon as a Category 4 storm.
According to the Tallahassee Democrat, the first reported death occurred after a man in his mid-40s was killed after a tree fell onto his home in Greensboro, Florida. Authorities received a call regarding the incident at around 6 p.m. Wednesday about a “debris situation where debris fell on the gentleman’s home.”
An 11-year-old girl in Seminole County, Georgia, was also killed after a tree fell on her home at around 3 p.m.
In both incidents, first responders were unable to immediately respond due to fallen power lines and trees. The identities of the victims have not yet been released.
“The county issued a state of emergency on Tuesday, constantly encouraging people to evacuate prior to the storm,” Olivia Smith, a spokeswoman for Gadsden County Sheriff’s Department, told PEOPLE. “Once people decide to leave after the storm has already hit — it’s already too late.”
Prior to the storm making landfall, the National Weather Service warned that Michael would bring “strong winds, heavy rain, and tornadoes” across “portions of Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina.” They also warned that the storm was “life-threatening.”
In preparation of the storm, Florida Gov. Rick Scott urged residents to evacuate, with around 375,000 people having been under either mandatory or voluntary evacuation orders. A state of emergency had been declared in 35 counties, and 2,500 National Guard troops along with 350 State Troopers were said to be active.
“You cannot hide from storm surge. Every family must be prepared now…We can rebuild your house, but we cannot rebuild your life,” Scott said at a press conference, warning that the “monstrous” hurricane “can kill you.”1comments
Michael, which formed near the Yucatan Peninsula on Sunday after having first appeared on radars on Saturday, became the first storm of its strength to hit the Panhandle in recorded history, with records dating back to 1851. A reported 664,000 homes and businesses have lost power due to the storm, and “catastrophic” conditions have been reported in the Panhandle, where there are now “boats on the highway.”
The “history-making, very devastating storm” storm, according to National Hurricane Center’s director Michael Graham, has since weakened into a tropical storm with reduced 50 miles per hour winds. After it moves through Georgia, it is forecast to move through the Carolinas, which were just battered by Hurricane Florence. The storm is expected to bring heavy rains and winds.