On Wednesday afternoon, Hurricane Michael developed into the most powerful hurricane on record to hit the Florida Panhandle. Michael swiftly gained strength on Tuesday evening thanks to the Gulf of Mexico’s warm waters. With the evacuation window closed, the Category 4 storm slammed into coast around 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday.
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The devastatingly violent hurricane is the first of its strength to hit the area since recordkeeping began back in 1851. The storm is also one of the most intense hurricanes to ever make landfall anywhere in the continental United States.
Hurricane Michael’s peak winds were recorded as the fourth highest and the storm’s pressure was the third lowest on record. In fact, it was just shy of being classified as a Category 5. As such, it’s also the strongest landfalling hurricane ever to hit the U.S. during the month of October.
As it made landfall in Mexico Beach on Wednesday afternoon, Michael brought sustained winds of up to 155 mph. Many areas were under extreme wind warnings hours after the storm began charging inland. Those who had not evacuated were being told to treat the “imminent extreme winds as if a tornado was approaching.”
According to a statement from Governor Rick Scott’s office, there are nearly 6,700 people in Florida shelters. In the event that you know someone in need of shelter, there are 54 shelters that are open.
In addition to the incredible winds, the National Hurricane Center also warned that Michael’s overall effects could be “potentially catastrophic.” Officials are concerned about severe flooding and storm surge in addition to the highly destructive winds.
As the storm weakens, it is expected to track towards the Northeast. Unfortunately, this may bring more heavy rainfall to areas currently recovering from Hurricane Florence.
Serious damages have already been reported for Panama City and nearby surrounding areas. By midday Wednesday, some 30,000 people had lost power, though the number was expected to grow exponentially. In addition to much of Florida being affected, parts of Georgia and Alabama may also experience outages.