ORLANDO, Florida — Michael made landfall early Wednesday afternoon near Mexico Beach as a major Category 4 hurricane.
It had maximum sustained winds of 155 mph, just 2 mph shy of Category 5, as it moved into the Panhandle. The pressure dropped to 919 mb before landfall, making it stronger than Andrew when it made landfall with a minimum pressure 922 mb.
As of 2 a.m. Thursday, Michael is now a tropical storm, with winds of 60 mph, moving northeast at 20 mph. The center of the storm is 25 miles east of Macon, Georgia.
- INTERACTIVE: A look at the most powerful hurricanes to hit Florida ▼
- Michael makes landfall near Mexico Beach, Florida
- Michael was just 2 mph shy of Category 5 strength
- It's one of the most powerful hurricanes to hit the US
- Over 388,000 people without power
- JUMP TO: In Washington | In Tallahassee | In Panama City | In Central Florida ▼
The Gadsden County Sheriff's Office reports a tree crashed through the roof of a man's home in Greensboro, trapping him. Downed power lines and blocked roads made it difficult for emergency crews to get to him. The man died.
According to records going back to 1851, no storm Category 4 or greater has ever made landfall in this part of the state. This is the third lowest pressure of land falling hurricane in the U.S. on record.
Michael, now a tropical storm, has been weakening for the last few hours over land. The current winds are 60 mph. Tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 160 miles. The minimum central pressure is 979 mb.
Officials with the Federal Emergency Management Agency described it as a potentially "devastating storm" that will cause power outages for weeks, knock down trees and produce flooding.
Although the worst of the impacts will stay north and west of Central Florida, tropical moisture continues streaming into the area with occasional strong squalls of rain and gusty winds.
We have a chance for severe weather with squalls that move through. An isolated tornado cannot be ruled out.
The following advisories are in effect:
A Storm Surge Warning is in effect for...
- Panama City Florida to Keaton Beach Florida
A Storm Surge Watch is in effect for...
- Ocracoke Inlet North Carolina to Duck North Carolina
A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for...
- North of Fernandina Beach Florida to Duck North Carolina
- Pamlico and Albemarle Sounds
Rain in Georgia, the Carolinas, and into Virginia could reach 1 to 3 inches, with isolated maximum amounts of 8 inches. An additional inch of rain is possible in Florida as Michael pulls away.
This rainfall could lead to life-threatening flash floods.
In Central Florida, breezy winds from the south and southwest will continue to push tropical moisture into the area and spotty on and off showers will be possible overnight. Showers will continue through Thursday before drier air slides down the peninsula behind Michael for the weekend.
— Bryan Karrick, Maureen McCann, Chris Gilson
Michael will bring destruction, warned officials during a FEMA update from Washington on Wednesday morning.
FEMA officials continued to warn those in Michael's path to heed evacuation orders. "People who stick around to see a storm surge don't live to tell about it," one official said.
Areas in Florida's Panhandle to parts of Georgia and the Carolinas can see power outages that can last for weeks, trees being blown over and storm surges and flooding up to 14 feet, officials said.
In addition to the hurricane-force winds, there's also the threat of tornadoes.
"This is going to be a devastating storm, possibly historic," a weather expert for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said.
They said the only "good news" to come from Michael is that it's expected to move away quickly.
FEMA has almost 3,000 people in the field in various states to prepare for Michael, including search and rescue teams staged to be able to move into Florida and Georgia.
— Anthony Leone
As Michael heads for the Florida Panhandle, 35 counties are under a state emergency, making them eligible for state assistance.
The state says some 388,160 people were without power as of 6 p.m.
Scott said in the evening briefing that recovery and relief are already getting underway.
"As Hurricane Michael continues its destructive path through the Panhandle and leaves our state, we're turning 100 percent of our focus on search and rescue and recovery," Scott said. "We need every family to help with this. Listen to local officials. We could still have flash flooding and tornadoes."
After the storm, passes, 2,500 activated National Guard troops will be ready to perform high-water and search-and-rescue operations. Supplies have been prepositioned in Tallahassee and at Eglin Air Force Base near Destin.
There has also been some finger pointing: Scott's emergency management director has accused local authorities of not taking adequate steps to prepare for Michael.
Scott also has activated the Florida Disaster Fund, which provides financial support in times of disaster. Duke Energy has already donated $50,000 to the fund. If you'd like to donate to the private state fund, go to www.FloridaDisasterFund.org or to make a one-time donation of $10, text DISASTER to 20222.
— Troy Kinsey
In the last couple of hours, we have begun seeing some of those outer bands of Hurricane Michael reaching Panama City.
Currently, there is some light rain with no heavy wind yet. But that of course will be changing rapidly as we head further into the morning.
It has been decades since people in this area have seen anything like what they are about to experience with Hurricane Michael.
A man who lived through this area's last major storm — Opal — in the mid-90s.
Bob Hurst is with the Bay County Historical Society.
"This building just shook, I mean I was scared. I thought it was going to come apart it was so bad. And that was a Category 3," said Bob Hurst of the Bay County Historical Society.
Now Hurst and so many others along the Gulf Coast are facing a Category 4 storm bearing down.
This area is expected to get hit by historic and catastrophic winds and storm surge.
— Jeff Allen
Central Florida may have dodged a direct hit, but we still will feel the impacts from Hurricane Michael.
Outer bands could produce gusty winds, heavy rain and even the possibility of tornadoes, according to our weather experts.
In western Marion County, residents in low-lying areas may encounter flooding.
That is why the county has set up two sandbag location sites.
Residents are allowed to get 20 sand bags per vehicle.
Joshua Collop said flooding from Hurricane Irma last year caused almost a $1,000 worth of damage to his home.
He is not taking any chances this time.
"Due to the mishaps from last year with Irma, I thought I was prepared but it turns out I needed a little more sandbags this year so I'm just trying to be safe," said Collop.
Marion County Emergency Management warns winds from Hurricane Michael may cause large tree branches to fall.
Marion County Public Schools will be open Wednesday, and no evacuation shelters have been open.
— Jerry Hume
Elsewhere in the tropics, Tropical storm Nadine developed Tuesday over the eastern Atlantic and is moving to northwest with winds of 65 mph. This storm poses no threat to land.
Leslie is a hurricane with winds of 80 mph. It is located about 1,725 miles southwest of the Azores. It is moving to the east-northeast at 12 mph. Leslie will continue to move east-northeast Thursday, taking it across the central and eastern Atlantic.
We also have an unorganized cluster of thunderstorms in the western Caribbean with a medium potential for formation over the next five days. If it develops, it will be given the name Oscar.
Hurricane season runs through Nov. 30.