(RNN) - Hurricane Michael, one of the most-intense storms to ever hit the United States, roared ashore early Wednesday afternoon along the Florida Panhandle with 155 mph winds, just two miles per hour shy of Category 5 status.
Maximum-sustained winds from the storm had fallen to 90 mph by Wednesday night, meaning that it had downgraded to Category 1 status on the Saffir Simpson Scale.
Michael, however, continues cutting a path of destruction as it moves through southwest Georgia. It entered the state as a Category 3 storm, the first to track into Georgia in over a century.
One death was reported near Greensboro, FL, on Wednesday. The Gadsden County Sheriff’s Office said a man died after a tree fell on a home there, CNN reported.
Around 7 p.m., more than 300,000 power outages had been reported in Florida.
Heavy rainfall from Michael is causing life-threatening flash flooding from the Panhandle to the Big Bend region of Florida. It could bring life-threatening floods to parts of southeast Alabama, Georgia, the Carolinas and southeast Virginia.
A tornado watch has been issued for nearly all of Georgia south of Athens, and for north Florida from Tallahassee to Jacksonville, through 2 a.m. ET Thursday.
The National Hurricane Center, along with local officials in impacted areas, are warning residents not to leave their homes, and especially not to venture out into the eye of the storm as it passes.
“We expect conditions across the panhandle to deteriorate rapidly,” Florida Gov. Rick Scott said. “The storm is here, it’s not safe to travel across the Panhandle. If you are in a coastal area, do not leave your house. The time to evacuate has come and gone.”
“If you made the choice to stay, seek refuge," he said. "The worst thing you could do is put your family in danger.”
Wednesday night, Scott tweeted: “If you live in impacted coastal communities, DO NOT TRY TO COME HOME TONIGHT. The roads are not clear.”
Earlier Wednesday, Scott tweeted that the state government is “prepared to deploy 1 million gallons of water, 1.5. million Meals Ready-to-Eat and 400,000 pounds of ice to help our families being impacted by the storm."
In Wednesday afternoon Facebook Live broadcasts, the director of the NHC, Ken Graham, called Michael “extremely dangerous.”
He warned of downed trees and power outages as the hurricane moves through southwest Georgia and into the middle of the state Wednesday evening.
Graham also warned of heavy rains moving through Florida, Georgia, the Carolinas and Virginia, which could bring the risk of flash flooding.
Strong storm surges are continuing along the Florida coast for miles inland. Graham said it could take some time for the waters to subside after the winds calm.
Because of flooding, debris and downed power lines, the NHC cautions those in the storm path not to venture outside, especially after nightfall.
Michael is expected to remain a hurricane until it moves into central Georgia sometime Thursday, where it will degrade into a tropical storm.
On Wednesday evening, tropical-storm force winds were extending outward of 160 miles from the storm center. Hurricane-force winds were extending up to 40 miles from the center.
In its 8 p.m. ET update Wednesday, the NHC said the storm was moving through southwest and south-central Georgia, continuing to bring damaging winds and a life-threatening storm surge to the Panhandle and catastrophic winds to rural Georgia.
Hurricane Michael weakens to Category 3, continues pounding Florida Panhandle
PANAMA CITY, Florida (AP) - The Latest on Hurricane Michael (all times Eastern):
The National Hurricane Center says Michael has lost some power, but it remains a dangerous Category 3 storm as it approaches an area where Florida, Alabama and Georgia meet.
Maximum sustained winds of 125 mph (200 kph) continued to batter the Florida Panhandle, with hurricane-force winds extending outward up to 40 miles (65 kilometers) from the center.
It made landfall near Mexico Beach, Florida, as a catastrophic Category 4 hurricane earlier Wednesday afternoon.
According to a 5 p.m. advisory, the storm was located 30 miles (50 kilometers) west of Bainbridge, Georgia, and 70 miles (115 kilometers) southwest of Albany, Georgia. It was moving north-northeast at 16 mph (26 kph).
Forecasters say storm surge waters are beginning to recede, but some normally dry areas near the coast will continue to be flooded.
Hurricane Michael makes landfall as powerful Category 4 storm
(WTXL) - Hurricane Michael has made landfall near Mexico Beach, Florida as a Category 4 storm with maximum sustained winds measured to be at 155 mph, just shy of Cat. 5.
Tallahassee is beginning to see sustained winds of 35 mph.
We're beginning to see sustained winds of 35 mph. These winds will continue in our area until this afternoon, when stronger winds are set to arrive. We expect to see wind gusts in #Tallahassee around 90 mph. Western Tallahassee is expecting to see the strongest winds. #MichaelTLH
— City of Tallahassee (@COTNews) October 10, 2018
PANAMA CITY, Florida (AP) - The National Hurricane Center says Michael is making landfall near Mexico Beach, Florida, as a catastrophic Category 4 Hurricane, pushing a deadly storm surge and whipping the coast with 155 mph (250 kph) winds.
Forecasters mark landfall as the place and time when the center of the eye strikes land. Minutes earlier, Michael's eyewall came ashore between Panama City and St. Vincent Island, and the hurricane center warned everyone inside the relative calm of the eye not to venture outside.
Hurricane-force winds extended outward up to 45 miles (75 km) from the center.
Those winds were tearing some buildings apart in Panama City Beach. One beachfront structure under construction could be seen collapsing, and metal roofing material flew sideways across parking lots amid sheets of rain.
Hurricane Michael coming ashore on Florida Panhandle as powerful Category 4 storm
(RNN) - Hurricane Michael came ashore early early Wednesday afternoon along the Florida Panhandle.
Maximum sustained winds were near 150 miles an hour as the monstrous storm quickly approached landfall. A Category 5 storm has sustained winds of 156 mph.
“We expect conditions across the panhandle to deteriorate rapidly,” Scott said. “The storm is here, it’s not safe to travel across the Panhandle. If you are in a coastal area, do not leave you house. The time to evacuate has come and gone.”
“If you made the choice to stay, seek refuge," he said. "The worst thing you could do is put your family in danger.”
The storm is expect to be the strongest to hit the region in recorded history. The National Hurricane Center called Michael “potentially catastrophic.”
“Life threatening storm surge and catastrophic winds moving onshore,” the NHC tweeted at 12 p.m. ET.
The storm strengthened to a Category 4 hurricane early Wednesday, giving it the potential to be the first hurricane of that category or higher to make landfall in the Florida Panhandle, likely near Panama City.
In contrast, Hurricane Katrina made landfall in Southeast Florida on Aug. 25, 2005, as a Category 1 hurricane with winds of 80 mph. The storm moved west across south Florida and into the Gulf of Mexico where it intensified into a Category 5.
Katrina eventually weakened to a Category 3 (sustained winds of 125 mph) before making landfall in southeast Louisiana and the Mississippi Gulf Coast, devastating large portions of New Orleans in the process.
Just a few weeks ago, Hurricane Florence made landfall on Sept. 14 near Wrightsville Beach, NC. The storm had maximum sustained winds of 90 mph, the National Hurricane Center said.
“The situation is about to get serious in parts of Bay, Gulf, and Franklin county,” the National Weather Service in Tallahassee tweeted at 11:19 a.m. ET. “We’ve issued our first ever Extreme Wind Warning. This means wind gusts in excess of 130 MPH are expected as #HurricaneMichael makes landfall in the next few hours. Shelter in place IMMEDIATELY.
Scott said in a tweet that "the time for evacuating along the coast has come and gone.”
He announced Tuesday that 54 shelters were opening across the state in preparation.
In Tallahassee, police warned residents to get inside and stay there.
“Do not get out and drive in the storm,” Tallahassee Police tweeted. “Stay inside after the storm has passed so we can evaluate the safety of our community and identify hazards.”
In nearby Walton County, emergency management suspended its services as the storm approached.
NHC Director Ken Graham said Apalachicola County is already seeing powerful winds. He warned a storm of this magnitude could potentially knock power out for weeks in areas.
Graham warned Michael is expected to stay a hurricane as it goes into central Georgia overnight. Storm surges could be seen as far south as the Tampa-St. Petersburg area.
In its 1 p.m. ET update, the NHC said Michael was located 20 miles south of Panama City, FL, and was moving north-northeast at 14 mph. Tropical storm winds extend out 185 miles from the center of the storm.
Residents of 13 Florida counties along the Panhandle and the west coast have been issued mandatory evacuation orders. Nine other counties have been issued voluntary or phased evacuation orders.
The evacuation orders affect at least 2 million people, CNN reports.
Many businesses in Panama City Beach, FL, were reportedly shuttered Tuesday evening as Michael neared.
Mandatory evacuations have been ordered for the following Florida counties: Bay, Citrus, Dixie, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Jackson, Jefferson, Levy, Okaloosa, Taylor, Wakulla and Walton.
Voluntary or phased evacuations have been issued for these Florida counties: Calhoun, Hernando, Leon, Liberty, Madison, Pasco, Santa Rosa, Washington and Escambia.
Those in mobile homes or other weak structures in particular were urged to leave. Tolls were suspended in order to help people evacuate.
Residents stocked up on food, water and gasoline. Some gas stations in the Panhandle ran out of fuel Tuesday as demand surged, WKMG reported. Officials from AAA said fuel trucks were operating nonstop to keep the stations supplied.
Michael is expected to produce a life-threatening storm surge for much of Florida and potentially Alabama’s coastlines. More than 325 miles of coastline from Mobile, AL, through the Florida Panhandle and Big Bend area are threatened, according to the National Weather Service.
Water levels began rising Tuesday.
A storm surge warning is in effect from the Okaloosa-Walton County line to the Anclote River in Florida, and a storm surge watch is in effect for the Anclote River to Anna Maria Island, including Tampa Bay.
Tropical storm-force winds extend up to 175 miles outward from the storm’s center, and hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 45 miles from the center.
After making landfall, Michael is expected to cut a path across the Southeast through Thursday night before heading north-eastward.
Widespread power outages, major tree damage and structural damage are expected in the Panhandle, with some of this damage extending as far as parts of northern Georgia and North and South Carolina, the Weather Channel reports.
These states may also see tornadoes spawn Wednesday into Thursday.
The Carolinas are still recovering from Hurricane Florence, which hit the states with devastating rain and flooding in September.
President Donald Trump approved an emergency declaration for Florida Tuesday, meaning federal aid will be available to the state to assist in hurricane recovery.
Scott first declared a state of emergency Sunday, then expanded it the next day to include 35 counties.
“Hurricane Michael is forecast to be the most destructive storm to hit the Florida Panhandle in decades,” Scott said. “You cannot hide from storm surge, so get out if an evacuation is ordered.”
The governors of Alabama and Georgia also declared states of emergency because of the expected effects of the storm on those states.
Heavy rainfall could produce life-threatening flash flooding from the Florida Panhandle and Big Bend region into parts of Georgia, the Carolinas and southeast Virginia.
About 3.7 million people are under hurricane warnings across Florida, Alabama and Georgia, while tropical storm warnings cover 8.5 million people in several states, according to CNN.
A hurricane warning has been issued from the Alabama-Florida border to the Suwannee River.
Tropical storm warnings have been issued from the Alabama-Florida border to the Mississippi-Alabama border, from the Suwanee River to the Chassahowitzka River in Florida and from north of Fernandina Beach, FL, to Surf City, NC.
A tropical storm watch is in effect along the southeastern coast of the U.S. and beyond, from the Chassahowitzka River to Anna Maria Island in Florida, including Tampa Bay, the Mississippi-Alabama border to the mouth of the Pearl River, Surf City, NC, to Duck, NC, and for the Pamlico and Albemarle Sounds.
The Florida Panhandle and Big Bend areas, in addition to southern portions of Alabama and Georgia, are expected to receive as much as 12 inches of rain through Friday.
The rest of Georgia, the Carolinas and southern Virginia are expected to receive as much as 8 inches.
These rains could bring life-threatening flash flooding.
The Florida Peninsula, eastern mid-Atlantic and southern New England coast could see as much as 3 inches of rain.
Michael is expected to weaken after making landfall and as it moves across the Southeast before reaching Virginia and Maryland Thursday night or Friday. Forecasters expect Michael to re-emerge over water and head away from the U.S. on Friday.
The last major hurricane to hit northwest Florida was in 2005, when Hurricane Dennis made landfall at Santa Rosa Island, FL, as a Category 3 storm, the Northwest Florida Daily News reported.
The seventh hurricane and second major hurricane of the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season, Michael formed near Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula on Sunday.
Michael brought heavy rains to western Cuba as it moved through the area Monday. At least 13 people in Central America died as a result of the storm’s rain and flooding over the weekend, Al Jazeera reported.
Florence, the first major hurricane of the season, made landfall as a Category 1 storm the morning of Sept. 14 at Wrightsville Beach, NC.
It left at least 51 people dead across North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia, according to Reuters. The amount of damage, particularly from flooding associated with the storm, is expected to reach 11 figures.
Meanwhile, Hurricane Leslie continues moving through the middle of the Atlantic.
The NHC announced in its 11 a.m. ET update that Hurricane Leslie was 1,130 miles southwest of the Azores, moving to the south at 10 mph. It’s expected to travel south before turning to the east-northeast Wednesday night.
The storm has maximum sustained winds of 75 mph. There are no coastal watches or warnings in effect for Leslie.
In addition, Tropical Storm Nadine, the 14th named storm of the hurricane season, is strengthening, as of the 11 a.m. ET update.
Nadine is moving at 7 mph, with maximum-sustained winds of 65 mph.
It was located about 505 miles west-southwest of the Cabo Verde Island, an archipelago nation off the African coast. No coastal watches or warnings have been issued for Nadine.
The storm is expected to begin weakening Thursday.
Tropical Storm Nadine formed Tuesday morning.