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Hurricane Michael leaves Panama City in tatters, wipes much of Mexico Beach off the map

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(RNN) - As Tropical Storm Michael moves through Georgia and into South Carolina, its effects are being seen far and wide across the southern United States.

At least two people died Wednesday when Hurricane Michael smashed into the Florida panhandle as a Category 4 storm then cut a path of destruction into Georgia, remaining a hurricane until early Thursday.

VIDEO: Helicopter video shows much of Mexico Beach has been wiped off the map:

Officials say an 11-year-old girl in Seminole County, GA, died after a mobile carport was picked up by the wind, crashed through the roof and hit her head, WALB reports.

VIDEO: drone video from damage to a school in Panama City:

The first reported death from the storm was that of a man who died after a tree fell on a home near Greensboro, FL.

Emergency declarations covered 322 counties across five Southern states, according to The New York Times, as Michael swept through, bringing hurricane-force winds and heavy rains.

The storm also spawned possible tornadoes in central Georgia.

VIDEO: drone video from damage in Panama City:

Officials say the damage wrought by Michael is some of the worst they’ve ever seen, leaving homes destroyed, trees uprooted and streets flooded in Florida, Georgia and Alabama.

In Panama City, FL, which bore the brunt of the storm, a train was blown off its tracks, CNN reports.

Alongside the damage, residents suffered from widespread power outages, and thousands in Florida found themselves weathering the storm in the 54 shelters set up in the state.

VIDEO: video of damage to buildings in Panama City:

As of 4 a.m. ET Thursday, more than 322,000 customers were without power in Florida.

Some of these power outages could last weeks because of the “absolutely overwhelming” nature of the storm, according to the director of the National Hurricane Center, Ken Graham.

Almost 200,000 customers in Georgia and more than 61,000 in Alabama also lost power.

Bay County, FL, was placed under a mandatory boil water notice, and arrests were made in the area after reports of looting, according to CNN.

VIDEO: video of damage to the suburbs in Panama City:

Wednesday, Florida Gov. Rick Scott activated 3,500 soldiers and airmen for high water search and rescue operations, and the state government is expected to deploy “1 million gallons of water, 1.5 million Meals Ready-to-Eat and 400,000 pounds of ice” to help those impacted by the storm.

The Salvation Army also announced they’re sending a mobile feeding kitchen to Panama City to serve residents.

President Donald Trump said he will visit Florida early next week, once the storm has passed. On Tuesday, he approved an emergency declaration for the state, meaning federal aid will be available to assist in hurricane recovery.

Now a tropical storm, Michael could continue to affect Georgia until Thursday evening, primarily through wind and rain damage. Its path will also take it into North and South Carolina, which are still recovering from damage done by Hurricane Florence just weeks ago.

Flooding because of heavy rainfall is the major concern in these states. All, as well as Virginia, could receive at least 4 inches of rain into Friday. North Carolina and Virginia could see as much as 9 inches.

The eastern Carolinas and southeast Virginia may also see tornadoes. Tropical-storm-force winds extend outward from Michael’s center up to 160 miles, according to the NHC.

Michael was located 30 miles west of Augusta, GA, as of 5 a.m. ET Thursday. It was headed northeast at 21 mph.

The storm is expected to steadily weaken as it crosses the southeastern U.S. Its maximum sustained winds have decreased to 50 mph.

Forecasters say Michael will re-emerge over water off the Mid-Atlantic coast and become a post-tropical cyclone by Friday. It may re-strengthen some at that time, leaving the Carolinas vulnerable to storm surge.

One of the most intense storms to ever hit the U.S., Hurricane Michael roared ashore early Wednesday afternoon along the Florida Panhandle with 155 mph winds, just two miles per hour shy of Category 5 status.

It cut a path of destruction across the state, bringing heavy rains and damaging winds, before it entered Georgia as a Category 3 storm, the first to track into the state in over a century.

Michael was finally downgraded to a tropical storm early Thursday while over south-central Georgia.

Michael is the strongest hurricane to strike the Florida Panhandle on record and the strongest storm to make landfall in the continental U.S. since Hurricane Andrew, which struck in 1992.

One catastrophic storm in recent memory, Hurricane Katrina, made its second landfall in 2005 as a Category 3 (sustained winds of 125 mph) storm, devastating the Mississippi Gulf Coast and southeast Louisiana, in particular catastrophically flooding New Orleans.

Just a few weeks ago, Hurricane Florence made landfall on Sept. 14 near Wrightsville Beach, NC. That storm had maximum-sustained winds of 90 mph, the NHC said.

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