Published: Thu, October 11, 2018
Science | By Michele Flores

Hurricane Michael has arrived, and it's stronger than anyone expected

Hurricane Michael has arrived, and it's stronger than anyone expected

Hurricane Michael, the most powerful storm the United States has seen in almost 50 years, is moving through the Florida Panhandle, ripping apart homes and sending walls of water rushing inland.

The "potentially catastrophic" storm has sustained winds of 145mph, the National Hurricane Center said in its latest update.

Michael's minimum central pressure - a key measure of hurricane strength - was measured at 919 millibars when it made landfall. Scientists say global warming is responsible for more intense and more frequent extreme weather, such as storms, droughts, floods and fires.

Supercharged by abnormally warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, the Category 4 storm crashed ashore in the early afternoon near Mexico Beach, a tourist town about midway along the Panhandle, a 200-mile (320-kilometer) stretch of white-sand beach resorts, fishing towns and military bases. Only the 1935 storm and Camille had lower pressures, Mr. Klotzbach said.

Ken Graham, director of the Miami-based National Hurricane Centre, said Michael is "unfortunately, a historical and incredibly unsafe and life-threatening situation".

While eyes in space watch the unsafe storm from above, cameras on the ground are tracking the hurricane's impending landfall for live internet viewing. "We can rebuild your house, but we cannot rebuild your life", Scott said at a press conference Tuesday, warning that "this storm can kill you".

More than 380,000 homes and businesses were without power at the height of the storm.

It appeared to be so powerful that it was expected to remain a hurricane as it moves into Alabama and Georgia early Thursday.

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Unprecedented? This could be the first time a 4 or stronger hurricane has ever made landfall in the Florida panhandle, per TWC. Rick Scott tweeted, while the sheriff in Panama City's Bay County issued a shelter-in-place order before dawn.

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An estimated 375,000 people in more than 20 counties were ordered or advised to evacuate.

The evacuation order remains in effect until further notice.

"Where homes were, they are not", Ginger Zee, ABC's chief meteorologist, said in a video posted on Twitter.

Trump issued an emergency declaration for Florida, freeing up federal funds for relief operations and providing the assistance of FEMA, which has more than 3,000 people on the ground. Some of those areas are still working to recover from Hurricane Florence.

The NWS said it had found no record of any previous Category 4 hurricanes that made landfall in the Panhandle or the "Big Bend" coastal region.

Helen Neal, 88, and her husband, J.W. Neal, 87, preferred to take their chances in a hotel rather than in their two-story beachfront house about a mile away in Panama City. Hurricanes form over the Atlantic and North Pacific oceans and cause most damage to the Americas while typhoons form in the Northwest Pacific Ocean, impacting Asia. Neighborhood streets flooded as waves battered the shoreline.

But Kottlowski noted that meteorologists are still analyzing Hurricane Michael, and it's possible that it will be retroactively upgraded to Category 5 status based on wind speeds.

In the case of Michael the damage will be mainly from wind rather than rain.

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