October 11, 2018 08:06
Hurricane Michael slammed into the Florida Panhandle on Wednesday, with experts calling it the most powerful storm to strike the U.S. mainland in 50 years.
"We are catching some hell," was how a Panama City Beach resident who decided to ride it out described Michael as it made landfall.
Michael came ashore as a shade under a Category 5 storm. Its 249-kph winds (154 mph) blew sheets of rain sideways. Hurricane-force winds reached about 45 miles (75 km) from Michael's center.
Trees and wires were down throughout Florida Gulf Coast towns. Many buildings lost roofs. Reporters on the ground said they could hear electric transformers exploding. Power was knocked out to more than 190,000 homes and businesses.
Rainfall was expected to total 10 to 20 cm (4 to 8 inches) in parts of Florida, Alabama and Georgia during the next few days, and up to 30 cm (12 Inches) in isolated areas of those states.
Michael also was bringing the threat of a dangerous storm surge that could exceed 4 m in some places. So far, there were no reports of casualties.
As of late Wednesday afternoon, fast-moving Michael was down to a Category 3 hurricane moving into Alabama and southwestern Georgia. Authorities said anyone in the storm's path who had not evacuated was better off sheltering in place.
President Donald Trump was in touch with state governors and said the federal emergency team was standing by and ready to help with storm recovery.
About 2,500 National Guard troops who helped with storm preparations were ready to assist with evacuations, while more than 4,000 others were on standby.
Michael reached Florida after causing destruction in western Cuba and parts of Central America. At least 13 storm-related deaths have been reported from the storm in El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua.
Meteorologists said Michael got its fury from the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
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