Aerial photos show the devastation left in the path of Hurricane Michael

Hurricane Michael's Winds Reach 150 mph, First Ever Extreme Wind Warning Issued for Region |

Michael Upgraded To Category 4 'Major' Hurricane As It Approaches Florida Panhandle

On the Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale, category 4 includes winds of up to 156mph with possible severe damage to even well-built homes and trees being felled.

Hurricane Michael was a sly storm, one that seemed nearly unexceptional at first.

While Florence took five days between the time it turned into a hurricane and the moment it rolled into the Carolinas, Michael gave Florida what amounted to two days' notice. Hurricane-force winds extended outward 45 miles from its center.

"Today is the day".

Ken Graham, director of the Miami-based National Hurricane Center, said Michael is "unfortunately, a historical and incredibly unsafe and life-threatening situation". Based on wind speed, it was the fourth-strongest, behind the Labor Day storm (184 miles per hour, or 296 kph), Camille and Andrew in 1992. "This storm surge is coming with a vengeance". Michael is expected to rain 4 to 7 in. from eastern to southern mid-Atlantic Georgia.

"This morning, Florida's Gulf Coast and Panhandle and the Big Bend are waking up to unimaginable destruction", Gov. Rick Scott said.

Authorities said a falling tree killed a man outside Tallahassee, Florida, and an 11-year-old girl in Georgia was killed when the winds picked up a carport and dropped it on her home.

President Trump has approved Florida's declaration of emergency. We're working with our partners to provide evacuees a safe place to stay.

Similar issues were arising at nursing homes, and crews were flying in supplies to Florida State Hospital at Chattahoochee, which serves patients with mental illness.

"Trees are top heavy as a result", AccuWeather's Marshall Moss said.

3,500: Number of Florida National Guard troops activated for pre-landfall coordination and planning, with an emphasis on high water and search-and-rescue operations. But the surging seawater could also create perilous problems far from the coast, raising rivers and bays to risky levels as it pushes as much as 10 to 15 miles inland. Graham said storm surge will inundate the Aucilla River there to a point where it will "flow backward".

"Don't think that you can ride this out if you're in a low-lying area", Nelson said on CNN. The governor has declared a state of emergency in 35 counties and is stressing that residents should "absolutely" evacuate if ordered to.

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ABC News chief meteorologist Ginger Zee said the ruins in Mexico Beach were "eerily reminiscent to the scene I saw in Gulfport [Louisiana] in 2005" after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Though most homes were still standing, no property was left undamaged. You can not hide from this storm.

The latest Area Forecast Discussion for Jacksonville Courtesy of the National Weather Service.

Hundreds of thousands in the state were without power Thursday. The city could face hurricane-force winds of up to 100 miles per hour - enough to knock down a lot of trees and power lines, Accuweather meteorologist Brett Rathbun warned.

Florida Fish and Wildlife has put 40 additional law enforcement officers on notice to deploy with a variety of special equipment, including boats that can be used for high-water rescues.

"Tropical storm wind gusts will continue across much of SC and central and eastern North Carolina, with sustained tropical storm force winds expected along the coast of the Carolinas", the agency said.

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The Florida Highway Patrol has closed an 80-mile stretch of Interstate 10 to clear debris from Hurricane Michael. NPR's Emily Sullivan reports state and local governments are preparing for torrential downpours.

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) is calling this Disturbance 1.

"Same devastation. Same winds", she said.

Anxious meteorologists said it had the potential of becoming one of the worst storms in the history of Florida's Panhandle. He's committed to providing any federal resources Florida may need. It expected the storm to turn due north tonight, then northeastward on Wednesday. "I thought the roof was going to come off".

Scott said there is not yet an estimate on how much the storm caused in damages.

"I am not seeing the level of traffic on the roadways that I would expect when we've called for the evacuation of 75 percent of this county", Bay County Sheriff Tommy Ford said.

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