Hurricane Michael hit the Florida Panhandle with 155 mph winds, near a Category 5, on the afternoon of Oct. 10, and officials said it is likely the most powerful storm to hit the area in recorded history.
According to the U.S. National Hurricane Center, the storm made landfall before 2 p.m. ET.
“Michael is upon us, it is time to seek refuge. Once you are sheltered, STAY PUT,” Florida Gov. Rick Scott tweeted. “Do not try to leave until the storm has passed. Multiple state and federal resources are staged and ready to respond as soon as it is safe.”
“Radar data indicate that the eye of Michael is moving inland over portions of Bay and Calhoun counties in the Florida Panhandle. Everyone in these areas is reminded not to venture out into the relative calm of the eye, as hazardous winds will increase very quickly as the eye passes!” the NHC said in a warning at 2 p.m.
Storm surge is also inundating some areas along the Panhandle. “Dangerous storm surge continues along the coast of the Florida Panhandle. A National Ocean Service water level station at Apalachicola recently reported over 7.7 feet of inundation above ground level,” the Hurricane Center said.
— Marc Weinberg (@MarcWeinbergWX) October 10, 2018
AccuWeather forecasters said the storm will likely hit Georgia has a Category 1 storm.
“It is very dangerous to stand, walk, park or linger under tall trees in a situation like this. Large limbs may break, or entire trees may topple over. Many trees are waterlogged due to the excessive rainfall from this past summer. The soil in many areas is saturated. Trees are top heavy as a result,” AccuWeather’s Marshall Moss said.
Forecasters say that 4 to 8 inches of rain is expected along the path of the storm, and 12 inches could fall in some parts of the Panhandle.
‘Major Infrastructure Damage’
Authorities warned of coming disruptions for those in Michael’s path.
The region should brace for “major infrastructure damage,” specifically to electricity distribution, wastewater treatment systems and transportation networks, Jeff Byard, associate administrator for FEMA, told reporters on a conference call with Reuters.
About 2,500 National Guard troops were deployed to assist with evacuations and storm preparations, and more than 4,000 others were on standby.
Some 17,000 utility restoration workers were also on call.
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.
He said the storm would still have hurricane-force winds as it pushed through Florida into Georgia and tropical storm-force winds when it reaches the Carolinas, which are still reeling from post-Florence flooding. Up to a foot of rainfall was forecast for some areas.
“My God it’s scary. I didn’t expect all this,” said Bill Manning, 63, a grocery clerk who left his camper van in Panama City, Florida, to move into a hotel where the power was already out, Reuters reported. “Panama City, I don’t know if there will be much left.”
People in coastal parts of 20 Florida counties had been told to leave their homes but by Wednesday morning were told it was too late to flee. Much of the affected area is rural and known for small tourist cities, beaches and wildlife reserves, as well as the state capital, Tallahassee.
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.
“It feels like you don’t know when the next tree is going to fall on top of you because its blowing so ferociously,” Port St. Joe Mayor Bo Patterson told Reuters. “You just don’t know when the next one is going down. It’s very, very scary. We have trees being uprooted, heavy, heavy rain.”
“This happened so quickly, we weren’t exactly prepared,” he said.
Michael grew from a tropical storm to a Category 4 hurricane in about 40 hours.
Reuters contributed to this report