Hurricane Michael strengthened into a Category 4 storm as it moved toward the Florida Panhandle, where it could blow ashore as the strongest storm to hit the United States this year. Just two hurricanes have ever hit the US with barometric pressure readings in the eye - a key metric of a storm's effects - lower than the 919 millibars of Michael.
Already regionally historic for being the first recorded Category 4 storm to batter the Florida Panhandle, Hurricane Michael is also rewriting national record books: It's the strongest by wind speed to make landfall in the USA since Hurricane Andrew in 1992. He said the storm could do damage in areas still reeling from the flooding Hurricane Florence caused in September, with housing repairs there still in the early stages.
Only three major hurricanes Category 3 or higher have struck the Panhandle since 1950: Eloise in 1975, Opal in 1995 and Dennis in 2005. The storm was the strongest to ever hit the Panhandle and the fourth Category 4 storm to hit the U.S.in the past 15 months.
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.
As the storm leaves Florida, state officials are turning toward search, rescue and recovery efforts, said Scott, who added that the outgoing storm still could produce tornadoes.
"The time to evacuate coastal areas has come and gone", Florida Gov. Rick Scott said at a news conference Wednesday.
The Florida Disaster website on October 9 said that parts or all of Bay County, Citrus County, Franklin County, Dixie County, Gulf County, Jackson County, Levy County, Okaloosa County, Taylor County, Wakulla County, and Walton County have been issued mandatory evacuation orders.
The Category 2 storm is strengthening in the Gulf of Mexico and is forecast to become a Category 3 hurricane by the time it hits the Florida Panhandle. "You can not hide from storm surge, so get out if an evacuation is ordered". Hurricane Michael could push the red tide inland and expose more of Florida's population to the problem, Bloomberg reported. The storm had top sustained winds of 70 miles per hour (112 kph) and was moving to the northeast at 17 miles per hour (27 kph).
For a hurricane to be classified as a Category 5, it needs a consistent wind speed of 157 miles per hour.
President Donald Trump approved a pre-landfall emergency declaration to provide federal money and help in Florida.
Georgia Power said they were expecting the uptick in outages due to storm damage brought about by the high winds, heavy rain, and fallen trees.
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.
When she dared to look outside, Mexico Beach's emerald waters and white sugar-sand beaches were covered in a dark sea of splintered debris, she said.
Damaging winds are expected in Florida, southeastern Alabama and southern Georgia. A Hurricane Warning is in effect for the Alabama/Florida border to Suwannee River Florida, and a Hurricane Watch is in effect from the Alabama/Florida border to the Mississippi/Alabama border. Storm surge warnings were also in place along the Florida and Alabama coasts. He focused on islands off the coast whose bridges may close as the storm approaches.
Mike Thomas, the mayor of Panama City Beach, a resort west of Panama City, said he expected there would be casualties and that emergency personnel would not go out when winds get over 80km/h. "And then you're riding it out in your auto instead of something else".
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