Hurricane Michael hits Florida as Category-4 storm

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Hurricane Michael hit the Florida Panhandle with flooding rain, disastrous winds and a strong storm in northwest of Mexico Beach, Florida on Wednesday, AFP reported.. It was a Category-4 hurricane, downgraded to Category- 1 nine hours after it made its landfall.

It intensified rapidly over the Gulf of Mexico after awhile.

The maximum sustained winds were recorded at 250km/h and considered as one of the most intense hurricanes to ever hit the US mainland, and the most powerful one on record to menace the Panhandle.

There is “one hurricane-related fatality”, said Olivia Smith, public information officer for the Gadsden County Board of County Commissioners, adding the incident was “debris-related. There was a tree involved”.

Smith said the situation was dangerous even for emergency personnel. “We’ve been very cautious with sending our first responders out right now.”

“We are in new territory,” National Hurricane Center (NHC) Meteorologist Dennis Feltgen wrote on Facebook. “The historical record, going back to 1851, finds no Category-4 hurricane ever hitting the Florida Panhandle.”

Only a couple of hours after Michael came ashore, floodwaters were more than 2.3-metres deep near Apalachicola on Florida’s Panhandle, NHC Director Ken Graham said.

More than 2.1 million residents of at least 20 Florida counties had been under mandatory or voluntary evacuation orders.

Earlier on Wednesday, Florida Governor Rick Scott said on Twitter that it was too late to evacuate the target zone and that people who had stayed should immediately seek refuge.

President Donald Trump declared a state of emergency for the entire state of Florida, freeing up federal assistance to supplement state and local disaster responses.

NHC’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 North and South Carolina, which are still reeling from post-Florence flooding.

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