Hurricane Michael has crashed into the Florida Panhandle with winds up to 250 kilometres per hour and the potential for a devastating storm surge from what was expected to be the worst storm ever recorded in the region.
Michael hit Florida with wind speeds of 155 miles per hour (250 kilometers per hour), placing it nearly into Category 5 scale, which starts at 157 mph.
Based on its internal barometric pressure, Michael was the third most powerful hurricane to hit the US mainland, behind the unnamed Labor Day storm of 1935 and Camille in 1969.
Bill Manning, a 63-year-old grocery clerk, fled his camper van in Panama City for safer quarters in a hotel only to see the electricity there go out.
Gadsden County sheriff's spokeswoman Anglie Hightower said a "male subject" was killed by a tree toppling onto his house in Greensboro, Florida, in the first fatality related to the hurricane.
While eyes in space watch the risky storm from above, cameras on the ground are tracking the hurricane's impending landfall for live internet viewing.
But many people living in counties farther east in North Central Florida were spared. "I don't think anyone would have experienced this in the Panhandle", meteorologist Ryan Maue of weathermodels.com said.
"We are catching some hell", said Timothy Thomas, who rode out the storm with his wife in their second-floor apartment in Panama City Beach. Some 17,000 utility restoration workers were also on call.
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Trump was briefed on the hurricane on Wednesday prior to it making landfall and said he would visit the area early next week.
About 3,500 Florida National Guard troops were deployed to assist with evacuations and storm recovery, along with more than 1,000 search-and-rescue personnel, Scott said. His office said he would tour the devastated areas next week. Amtrak has also modified its service and is waiving fees for passengers who change their reservations.
Hurricane-force winds extended up to 45 miles (75 kilometers) from Michael's center.
Some parts of the Carolinas and southern Virginia, recently deluged by Hurricane Florence, could see up to 6 inches, the hurricane center said. A little over a day later, it had transformed into a monster.
As of 5 p.m. EDT, Michael is still a Category 3 major hurricane with its peak winds measuring 125 miles per hour.
Supercharged by abnormally warm waters in the Gulf of Mexico, Hurricane Michael slammed into the Florida Panhandle with terrifying winds of 155 miles per hour Wednesday, splintering homes and submerging neighborhoods.
Warm water is the energy that fuels hurricanes, and the Gulf water is 4 to 5 degrees warmer than normal.
Hurricane Michael just made landfall along the Florida panhandle and it's packing much more of a punch than most assumed it would when warnings about its arrival began to spread about a week ago.