Michael weakens to tropical storm after day of havoc in Florida

NOAA via AP

The eye of Hurricane Michael began to move through southwest Georgia on Wednesday evening - the first major hurricane to reach the state since the 19th century, according to local reports.

The initial flight was smooth, but things got steadily more turbulent as the aircraft got closer and closer to the eye of the storm.

Judy Brown, meantime, has done what she can to prepare for Hurricane Michael; now it's just a question of riding it out.

"The devastation is just frightful", Parker said of Port St. Joe, where he moved two years ago from IL.

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

Its collision with the Florida coast so far has been stunning and violent.

Patterson said about 2,500 of the town's 3,500 people had stayed put, including about 100 in a beachside area who ignored a mandatory evacuation order.

Michael is likely to dump heavy rain over Florida, Alabama, Virginia, Georgia, and the Carolinas.

"Going back through records to 1851 we can't find another Cat 4 in this area, so this is unfortunately a historical and incredibly risky and life-threatening situation", he said.

There have been at least two reported deaths in the US since Michael made landfall along the Florida Panhandle Wednesday afternoon as a Category 4 hurricane.

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The Hurricane Center predicts risky surf conditions will start to appear along the northern Gulf Coast on Tuesday. The National Weather Service in Tallahassee said: "This is a storm to definitely take very seriously".

A unsafe storm surge continued along the coastal Florida panhandle; a National Ocean Service station in Apalachicola was reporting 5 feet of water above the ground level. It was the "worst storm" that part of the state has ever seen, Gov. Rick Scott said.

Schools and state offices in the area are to remain shut this week.

The National Hurricane Centre warned of possible spinoff tornadoes and heavy rains in Alabama and Georgia, before the storm heads for SC, already soaked by Hurricane Florence in September.

As the Category 4 storm's center crossed nearby, Mulligan said, the concrete building shook and vibrated against sustained winds around 155 miles per hour.

Ferocious Hurricane Michael roared ashore east of Panama City with pounding 250kmh winds and a devastating storm surge that flooded beachside towns, shredded roofs, left almost a half-million people powerless in three states and killed at least one person.

Hurricane Michael continued to batter the Southeast, pummeling states with powerful rain, wind and flooding.

Forecasts projected that Hurricane Michael would continue on a northeast path through Georgia before spinning back into the Atlantic Ocean.

A National Guard team found 20 survivors there overnight and more crews were working through the wreckage on Thursday.

At 1am GMT, maximum sustained winds decreased to 90mph with higher gusts, the NHC said in a bulletin.

Risky conditions from damaging winds and flooding rain were forecast to spread through Georgia and into the Carolinas Wednesday night and Thursday (Friday NZT).

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