Hurricane Michael Has Arrived

Florida

Michael Upgraded To Category 4 'Major' Hurricane As It Approaches Florida Panhandle

Hurricane Michael crashed ashore Wednesday afternoon as a Category 4 storm, ravaging the Florida Panhandle with 155-mph winds and a brutal storm surge.

According to reports on October 11, at least two people died during the storm.

For news organizations, Thursday was a race to get to Mexico Beach, considered the hardest-hit community by the strikingly potent storm. Roads were impassable and canals were choked with debris.

After being battered for almost three hours by strong winds and heavy rains, roads in Panama City were virtually impassable and trees, satellite dishes and traffic lights lay in the streets.

Even before Michael made full landfall, it was whipping trees with its winds and had caused flooding in the town of Apalachicola, where more than five feet of water was reported, and in Port St. Joe.

University of Georgia's Marshall Shepherd, a former president of the American Meteorological Society, called it a "life-altering event" on Facebook and said he watched the storm's growth on satellite images with a pit growing in his stomach.

"I've never been through one this bad", said Jerry Nelson, who was born and raised outside Panama City, where winds ripped away bricks from the facade of the historic high school and mangled building after building.

"Those who stick around to experience storm surge don t typically live to tell about it", said FEMA s Long.

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Residents who evacuated ahead of the storm have been anxious to get back home and to start the clean-up process.

Smith, in Gadsden County, said the situation was unsafe even for emergency personnel.

"We have a massive flow of search and rescue, Highway Patrol, National Guard, utility workers, pushing their way down to these impacted areas", the governor said.

Smith could not provide details on the victim.

One death has been confirmed in the state.

"During disasters, Floridians take care of each other", Scott said. "And then once you seen that, then everything just went black".

SULLIVAN: And local authorities are stressing timely evacuation, too.

EMILY SULLIVAN, BYLINE: Hurricane Michael will likely make landfall along the Gulf Coast today as a Category 3 storm, according to the National Hurricane Center.

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Bay County, which includes Panama City and Tyndall Air Force Base, was 98 percent without power Thursday morning, according to the state Division of Emergency Management.

Michael sprang quickly from a weekend tropical depression, going from a Category 2 on Tuesday to a Category 4 by the time it came ashore.

More than 375,000 people up and down the Gulf Coast were ordered or urged to evacuate as Michael closed in.

"Hurricane Michael is an unprecedented event and can not be compared to any of our previous events". The storm could leave wide swaths of the region powerless for weeks, he said.

Scarcely 72 hours after its formation, this late-season tropical system has achieved major hurricane status as it bears down on the coast of Florida.

USA president Donald Trump approved a federal pre-landfall emergency declaration authorizing the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to "coordinate all disaster relief efforts" and to "identify, mobilize, and provide at its discretion, equipment and resources necessary to alleviate the impacts of the emergency".

Michael weakened to a tropical storm and was moving northeast Thursday, with tropical storm warnings in effect from Georgia to North Carolina, including Savannah, Raleigh, Wilmington and Charleston.

The hurricane center's Graham said Michael represented a "textbook case" of a hurricane system growing stronger as it drew near shore, in contrast to Hurricane Florence, which struck North Carolina last month after weakening in a slow, halting approach.

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