Hurricane Michael downs trees, knocks out power

Each line is a different forecast model projection for the track of Michael later this week

Authorities did not discuss the circumstances of their deaths, but their bodies have been taken to the medical examiner's office to determine the cause of death. The truck driver had to be extricated and also suffered serious injuries.

Drawing energy from warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, the storm strengthened rapidly into a potentially devastating Category 3 during the day and just kept getting stronger in the hours ahead of an expected Wednesday landfall.

Of the five deaths in Virginia, four were from drowning, according to member station WVTF. "5 suspected tornadoes", the Virginia Department of Emergency Management said on Twitter. Four of those drowned, and the fifth was a firefighter who died in a storm-related crash, officials said.

- Warnings are in effect for more than 300 miles of coastline, the National Weather Service said.

Boston-based Karen Clark & Company, an insurance company that produces models for catastrophes is estimating Hurricane Michael caused about $8billion in insured losses.

Thousands of residents in the Florida Panhandle are slowly returning to their homes and discovering that everything or nearly everything they owned has been reduced to rubble.

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The devastation inflicted by Hurricane Michael came into focus Thursday with rows upon rows of homes found smashed to pieces, and rescue crews struggling to make their way into the stricken areas in hopes of accounting for hundreds of people who may have stayed behind. Videos of the damaged base show roofs ripped off hangars and a fighter jet on display toppled onto the ground.

- Landfall is forecast for around 1 p.m. Wednesday near Panama City, with winds over 130 miles per hour. It includes the privately insured wind and storm surge damage to residential, commercial and industrial properties and automobiles. Hurricane strength winds are expected during the midday.

North Floridian towns like Mexico Beach and Panama City had never faced a storm like Michael before. Street flooding was reported in Roanoke and other southwestern Virginia cities that reported motorists caught in flooding had to be rescued.

The U.S. Army said more than 2,000 Florida National Guard soldiers were working on the recovery operations.

One of those deaths would be a man killed by a falling tree.

And in Georgia, officials in Seminole County, on the Florida border, said early Thursday that an 11-year-old girl in a mobile home was killed by a metal carport that was thrown in the air by Michael's gusting winds.

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In North Carolina, a 38-year-old man died when a large tree fell on his vehicle Thursday on U.S. 64 east of Statesville, Iredell County Fire Marshal David Souther said.

Some fear the toll can only rise as rescue teams get around storm debris blocking roads and reach isolated areas.

The timing of Tropical Storm Michael's threat for North Carolina and southern Virginia is that the storm will continue tracking through those states tonight, moving closer to the Atlantic Friday morning.

While Florence wrung itself out for days and brought ruinous rains, fast-moving Michael is likely to be more about wind and storm surge. With the hurricane still pounding the state hours after it came ashore, and conditions too unsafe in places for search-and-rescue teams to go out, there were no immediate reports of any deaths or serious injuries.

"The general public should remain cautious, even in ideal conditions, and be aware of hazards, storm surge debris, and possible flooding conditions due to the hurricane", the Coast Guard said in the release. Forecasters say the storm has already begun shedding its tropical characteristics but will take on a new chapter as a powerful extratropical storm with gale force winds on its trek out to sea.

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