Hurricane Michael blasted through the central part of the Florida Panhandle Wednesday afternoon, unleashing 155 mph winds when making landfall. Hurricane force winds extended outward up to 45 miles from the eye, tropical storm force winds extended up to 175 miles away. People are reporting total devastation, particularly in Panama City and Mexico Beach.
Extremely warm Gulf waters along the coast fueled the storm’s rapid strengthening from a Category 1 on Sunday to a monstrous high-end Category 4 just before battering the coast. It’s the only Category 4 hurricane to make a direct hit on the panhandle. It’s the third-most intense hurricane at landfall in U.S. history with a central of 919 millibars, lower than Katrina’s and Andrew’s pressure, and the sixth-strongest based on wind speed.
Unfortunately, a man was killed in Gadsden County when a tree fell on a home. The Orlando Sentinel reported that the sheriff’s department said it got a call Wednesday evening that the man was trapped. Rescue crews couldn’t get to him in time because downed trees and debris were blocking too many roads.
Michael is now a Category 1 with winds of 75 mph, moving through south-central Georgia and clipping southeast Alabama. It’ll move through the Carolinas Thursday and Thursday night, then toward the mid-Atlantic states before moving into the Atlantic Ocean on Friday, causing more wind damage as well as possible flooding. Tropical Storm Warnings are in effect for the Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia coasts. Tornado Watches have been issued for parts of northeast Florida and central and south Georgia.
CNN reported that around 490,000 customers are without power in Florida, Alabama, and Georgia.