Hurricane Michael weakens to Category 1 storm: NHC

As the hurricane, downgraded to a category-3 storm, moved into Alabama and Georgia on Wednesday evening, Florida Governor Rick Scott urged locals to stay inside and off the roads, as rescuers were on their way to the most heavy-hit areas.

A satellite image of Michael took the terrifying shape of a skull as it roared closer to the Florida Panhandle as a fierce Category 4 storm on Tuesday.

Olivia Smith, public information officer for the Gadsden County Board of County Commissioners, said there was "one hurricane-related fatality", adding that the incident was "debris-related".

After Hurricane Michael's shrieking winds and crashing waves died down, Brandon and Sydni Troupe drove to their neighborhood in Panama City to asses the damage.

Emily Hindle lies on the floor at an evacuation shelter set up at Rutherford High School, in advance of Hurricane Michael, which is expected to make landfall today, in Panama City Beach, Fla., Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018.

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.

As it approaches the Florida panhandle, Hurricane Michael has intensified into a Category 4 hurricane.

Hurricane Michael will continue to produce heavy rainfall and the risk of flash flooding in the areas of Georgia, the Carolinas and southeastern Virginia.

As Florence made its way toward the coast of the Carolinas last month, it weakened from a Category 4 to a Category 1 storm with sustained winds of 90 miles per hour.

More than 300 miles of coastline were under threat, the National Weather Service said.

You can track the hurricane's progress using Google's Crisis Map tool or check for live updates from this National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration camera in space.

A water-level station in Apalachicola, close to where Michael came ashore, reported a surge of almost 8 feet (2.5 meters). Michael's measurement indicates it's more intense than Hurricane Andrew, which hit Florida in 1992 with a pressure of 922 millibars, and Hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans in 2005 when it hit with a pressure of 920 millibars.

Footage shared at around 4pm showed the wind speeds had dropped to 140mph, with a central pressure of 927 MB, but it remained a "very powerful hurricane".

Hurricane Michael, the third-most powerful ever to strike the USA mainland, battered Florida's Gulf coast before it was downgraded to a tropical storm as it headed through Georgia. "I didn't expect all this", he said.

As the Tallahassee office of the National Weather Service said on Twitter earlier Wednesday: "If you're not sheltered in place now, you need to be!" He acknowledged that a lot of the residents in the area were poor and said it was probably tough to leave.

A restaurant fixture known as "Big Gus" is seen damaged by Hurricane Michael in Panama City Beach. It is the fourth strongest on record, and nothing this ferocious has ever hit the Panhandle.

States of emergency have been declared in all or parts of Florida, Alabama, Georgia and North Carolina.

It was a category two hurricane by Tuesday, and a borderline category five on Wednesday morning, packing 155mph winds.

Vanessa Coleman

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