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Reports: Unprecedented Category 4 Hurricane Michael makes landfall near Mexico Beach, Florida

By Kevin Byrne, AccuWeather staff writer
By Katy Galimberti, AccuWeather staff writer
By Amanda Schmidt, AccuWeather staff writer
By Renee Duff, AccuWeather meteorologist
October 10, 2018, 7:36:41 PM EDT

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Major Hurricane Michael, an unprecedented storm, is slamming the Florida Panhandle as an extremely dangerous Category 4 hurricane. Michael made landfall near Mexico Beach, Florida, shortly before 1 p.m. CDT Wednesday with maximum sustained winds of 155 mph.

Since Michael's eye crossed the coast as a Category 4 hurricane, it's the first time on record for such an occurrence over the Big Bend area of Florida's coast, according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski.

"Michael is a historic storm. A Category 4 hurricane has never struck that part of Florida. The coastline will be changed for decades," AccuWeather Vice President of Forecasting and Graphics Operations Marshall Moss said.

The storm will bring sustained winds of 80-100 mph with gusts of 120-160 mph to parts of the Florida Panhandle, mostly within 40 miles of where Michael makes landfall. The strongest gusts are likely just to the east of the center. This will lead to widespread tree and structural damage.

hurricane michael 4:00 pm 10-10-18

This satellite image shows Michael moving inland over the Florida Panhandle around 4 p.m. EDT Wednesday. (Photo/NOAA)

States of emergency have been declared in parts of Florida, Georgia, Alabama and the Carolinas. Mandatory evacuations are in effect along much of Florida's northern Gulf Coast.

Several thousand power outages and tropical-storm-force wind gusts have already been reported in parts of northwestern Florida.

There may be prolonged power outages that could last for several days. Wind damage will be on a more localized level as Michael moves across the Carolinas and Virginia. However, any weakened structures left behind from Florence will be at the highest risk for damage.

The last Category 4 hurricane to make landfall in the United States in October was Hurricane Hazel, which slammed the Carolinas in 1954.

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AP Photo/Gerald Herbert

People cut away a tree that'll on a vehicle in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael in Panama City, Fla., Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018.

(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Rescue personnel perform a search in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach, Fla., Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018.

(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Destruction is seen in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach, Fla., Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018.

AP Photo/Gerald Herbert

Shredded trees, derailed train cars and a sunken trailer are seen in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael in Panama City, Fla., Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018.

AP/Gerald Herbert

A woman checks on her vehicle as Hurricane Michael passes through, after the hotel canopy had just collapsed, in Panama City Beach, Fla., Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018.

Michael made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane on Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018 near Mexico Beach, Fla.

(Instagram photo/@lanark_fire_department)

A portion of Highway 98 in Carrabelle, Florida, washed away after impacts from Hurricane Michael on Oct. 10, 2018.

(Instagram photo/ Jessica Nicolosi @menderyogini)

A tree covers a house on Cove Boulevard in Panama City, Florida, after Hurricane Michael's powerful winds lash the city on Oct. 10, 2018.

(Image via Instagram/b_lucky83)

High waves were spotted in Pensacola Beach, Fla., due to Hurricane Michael getting closer to shore.

(AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

Waves crash against the Malecon, triggered by the outer bands of Hurricane Michael, as tourists drive past in a classic American car in Havana, Cuba, Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2018.

(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

James Prescott surveys the damage as the remnants of Hurricane Michael move through Panama City, Florida, on Oct. 10, 2018. He was visiting a friend and was unable to leave the street due to downed trees.

(Photo/City of Tallahassee)

A broken utility pole blocking a road in Tallahassee, Florida.

(Image via Instagram/inglisleslie)

High tide in Shore Acres, Fla., as Hurricane Michael closes in on the Gulf Coast.

(AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

Krystal Day of Homosassa, Florida, leads a sandbag assembly line at the Old Port Cove restaurant Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2018, in Ozello, Fla. Employees were hoping to protect the restaurant as Hurricane Michael continues to churn in the Gulf of Mexico heading for the Florida panhandle.

AP/Gerald Herbert

Earnest Sweet sits while his daughters Terri, 4, center, and Anna, 7, sleep at an evacuation shelter set up at Rutherford High School in Panama City Beach, Fla., Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018.

AP Photo/Chris O'Meara

A resident of St. Marks, Fla., rescues a cooler out of the floodwaters near his home Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018. Powerful Hurricane Michael slammed into the Florida Panhandle with terrifying winds of 155 mph Wednesday, splintering homes and submerging neighborhoods before continuing its destructive march inland across the Southeast. It was the most powerful hurricane to hit the continental U.S. in nearly 50 years and at least one death was reported during its passage.

(AP Photo/Gary Fineout)

Tallahassee Mayor and Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Andrew Gillum, left, helps Eboni Sipling fill up sandbags in Tallahassee, Fla., Monday, Oct. 8, 2018.

(Instagram photo/@treny5000)

Strong winds from Michael uprooted a tree in front of a home in Burton, South Carolina, on Oct. 11, 2018.

(Image via Instagram/rlhill32)

Putting up boards in Navarre, Fla., in preparation for Hurricane Michael.

AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

President Donald Trump pauses during his meeting to discuss potential damage from Hurricane Michael, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018.

(Image via Instagram/b_lucky83)

Pensacola Beach, Fla., started to see the outer bands of Hurricane Michael.

(Image via Instagram/foxyscustomcruises)

Hightide rising higher than normal as Hurricane Michael gets closer to land.

(Image via Instagram/party813william)

Storm surge from Hurricane Michael in Tampa, Fla., off of the Hillsborough river.

(Photo/AccuWeather)

(Photo/AccuWeather)

(Photo/AccuWeather)

(Photo/AccuWeather)

(Photo/AccuWeather)


5:20 p.m. CDT Wednesday:

Tyndall Air Force Base in Panama City, Florida, reported that they took a direct hit from Hurricane Michael with the base sustaining extensive damage.

Destructive winds brought down trees and power lines and removed roofs from buildings at the base. No injuries have been reported.

Michael is now a Category 3 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 125 mph. The center of the storm is now over Georgia and has become the first Category 3 hurricane to track over the state.



4:30 p.m. CDT Wednesday:

Florida is prepared to deploy 1 million gallons of water, 1.5 million meals and 400,000 pounds of ice to families impacted by the storm, Florida Gov. Rick Scott tweeted.

"Response is coming. Our massive recovery efforts continue to grow. We are ready with law enforcement, strike & medical teams, volunteers, food, water, utility crews and more," Scott tweeted.

Scott said the Coast Guard will assist with rescues and more than 7,000 law enforcement officers also offered to help.


4:00 p.m. CDT Wednesday:

Hurricane Michael downgraded to a Category 3 storm, with winds of 125 mph, according to the latest weather advisory.

The storm is moving NNE at 16 mph. The center of the storm is moving into southeastern Alabama and southwest Georgia.


3:30 p.m. CDT Wednesday:

Power outages have now surpassed 250,000 in Florida.

Tornado watches cover much of northern Florida and Georgia until 2:00 a.m. EDT.


NWS says tornadoes are possible across the Florida Panhandle, southeast Georgia and southern South Carolina through Thursday morning as Michael moves inland.

Hurricane Michael and its outer bands are capable of quickly spinning up tornadoes.

High wind gusts have been reported throughout Northern Florida. A 102 mph gust was recently recorded at Marianna, Florida

Michael wind gusts 10-10 4:30 pm


The DeFuniak Springs Police have suspended response in DeFuniak Springs, Florida, due to worsening storm conditions. While citizens may still report concerns and request assistance, the response may be delayed, the police tweeted.


2:45 p.m. CDT Wednesday:

Images of catastrophic damage in Mexico Beach, Florida, where Michael made landfall, are beginning to appear on social media.


Florida Department of Transportation webcams are showing downed trees around the Tallahassee area.



1:34 p.m. CDT Wednesday:

Power outages in Florida are approaching 200,000, according to poweroutage.us.

At landfall, Michael's pressure of 919 mb was the third lowest on record for a U.S. landfalling hurricane.

Michael pressure graphic


The storm's maximum sustained winds are also fourth strongest for a U.S. landfalling hurricane.


AccuWeather Extreme Meteorologist Reed Timmer is reporting that storm surge is arriving in Panama City Beach on the backside of Hurricane Michael.



12:44 p.m. CDT Wednesday:

Michael is now packing maximum sustained winds of 155 mph (just shy of Category 5 status) as it makes landfall near near Mexico Beach, Florida.

michael radar landfall


Michael landfall

This satellite image shows Michael making landfall Wednesday afternoon on the Florida Panhandle. (Photo/NOAA)


12:13 p.m. CDT Wednesday:

Michael's landfall is imminent.

The eyewall of Michael is coming ashore along the coast of the Florida Panhandle between St. Vincent Island and Panama City.

A wind gust of 118 mph was recently reported at Tyndall Airforce Base.

AccuWeather Reporter Jonathan Petramala is currently in Panama City Beach capturing the intensity of Michael's winds. Petramala is currently filming from a safe location.


11:28 a.m. CDT Wednesday:

Nearly 30,000 customers are without power according to Florida due to Michael, according to state officials.

The strong storm has a current central pressure of 27.26 inches Mercury, which is just higher than Hurricane Katrina's central pressure at landfall (27.18 inches Mercury).


An 87-mph wind gust was measured at Apalachicola just after 11 a.m. local time, the highest so far from the storm, the NWS said.


11:15 a.m. CDT Wednesday:

Strong winds are ripping across the Florida Panhandle as Michael nears.

"Michael is going to be like an EF3 tornado coming across a 30-plus mile area," AccuWeather Vice President of Forecasting and Graphics Operations Marshall Moss said.

Chief Meteorologist for WDRB in Louisville, Kentucky, captured this new construction collapsing on Wednesday morning:


Walton County officials have suspended ambulance services until the storm passes.

As landfall nears, officials continue to stress that everyone in the path of the storm should stay in place. The National Weather Service declared that this is a "worst case scenario."



10:38 a.m. CDT Wednesday:

Michael continues to strengthen as maximum sustained winds hit near 150 mph, The National Hurricane Center said.

Wind gusts up to 78 mph have been reported in Apalachicola Bay, 60 miles east of the storm.

The National Weather Service in Tallahassee issued an Extreme Wind Warning for the first time, indicating that winds up to 130 mph will batter the area.

These unprecedented strong winds are life-threatening. Officials are urging residents to shelter in place.

Meanwhile, AccuWeather's Jonathan Petramala is reporting live from the panhandle where storm surge has already started to pound near Panama City Beach.


Extreme Meteorologist Reed Timmer is in Panama City Beach as well where winds have dramatically picked up as Michael advances closer.



10:22 a.m. CDT Wednesday:

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper declared a State of Emergency ahead of effects from Hurricane Michael. Emergency management said that 150 National Guard troops will report to duty on Wednesday afternoon to start the preparations.

Coastal flooding, storm surge, wind damage and power outages could ensue after Michael tracks northward.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott told residents to remain put once they're in shelter.

After the storm passes, a "massive wave of response and support" will be on hand, including more than 1,000 search and rescue officials and another 3,500 National Guard troops.

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster extended the state of emergency from Florence to include potential Michael impacts.

The National Weather Service issued tropical storm watches and warnings in some parts of the state for the first time on record. Michael's impacts are expected to hit the region late on Wednesday and into Thursday.


New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Wednesday morning that troops from the New York Air National Guard will travel down to Florida and Mississippi to assist with storm relief.


9:37 a.m. CDT Wednesday:

“Catastrophic Hurricane Michael continues to intensify as it approaches the Florida Panhandle. It is the strongest storm to hit the U.S., in terms of wind, since Hurricane Charley in 2004. It’s crucial to note that a 150-mph storm has four times the force of a 110-mph storm. Damage will be catastrophic within a 50-mile stretch of the coastline where the eye makes landfall, centered around Apalachicola Bay. It will look like a bomb or tsunami hit the area. We now believe that the coastline will cause the water to converge as high as 18-20 feet in isolated areas. This is moving water, which is extremely powerful. We’ve all seen pictures of what a tsunami can do. If people are still there and can still hear us, they need to do everything they can to survive,” AccuWeather Founder and President Dr. Joel N. Myers said.


9:19 a.m. CDT Wednesday:

Powerful waves are slamming the coastline along the Florida Panhandle as Michael gets closer.

AccuWeather Extreme Meteorologist Reed Timmer is tracking the storm in Panama City Beach.



Michael is now about 65 miles southwest of Panama City. A National Ocean Service water level station at Apalachicola recently reported over 4 feet of inundation above ground level, according to the NHC.


8:31 a.m. CDT Wednesday:

"Michael is a historic storm. A Category 4 hurricane has never struck that part of Florida. The coastline will be changed for decades," AccuWeather Vice President of Forecasting and Graphics Operations Marshall Moss said.

Water levels are rising and winds increasing along the Florida Panhandle as Michael approaches.

There are currently at least 3,700 power outages in Florida, according to the Florida Division of Emergency Management.


"This is the worst storm that the Florida Panhandle has seen in over a century. I cannot stress enough, no matter where you are in the Panhandle, it is time to find shelter," Governor Scott said.



8:22 a.m. CDT Wednesday:

More than 300 people have been taken into shelters in Okaloosa County, Florida, local officials said, as Michael makes its approach to the Florida Panhandle.



7:43 a.m. CDT Wednesday:

"Life-threatening conditions" have been reported in Bay County, Florida. Residents in the path of the storm who didn't evacuate are being told to shelter in place.


Florida Gov. Rick Scott has told residents to seek refuge immediately. The governor has also been in contact with President Donald Trump to give him an update on the storm. The president has offered any federal resources necessary as the state prepares to respond to the massive storm.



6:53 a.m. CDT Wednesday:

Michael continues to strengthen as maximum sustained winds are now at 145 mph.

The storm is moving toward the north at around 13 mph. It is currently located about 90 miles southwest of Panama City, Florida.

A wind gust to 56 mph (91 km/h) was recently reported at Apalachicola Regional Airport, the National Hurricane Center said.

infrared Michael

(Photo/NOAA)



6:33 a.m. CDT Wednesday:

"Should Michael's eye cross the coast as a Category 4 hurricane, it would be the first time on record for such an occurrence over the Big Bend area of Florida's coast," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski said.

If Michael makes landfall as a Category 4, then it would join the ranks of a select few Category 4 hurricanes to make landfall in the United States during October. Hurricane Hazel in 1954 was the last hurricane to do so. However, Hazel made landfall along the Carolina coast and not in Florida, according to Sosnowski.

4:45 a.m. CDT Wednesday:

A tornado watch has been issued for portions of the Florida Panhandle and southwestern Georgia until 5:00 p.m. EDT Wednesday. The area includes Panama City, Apalachicola and Tallahassee, Florida, and Albany and Valdosta, Georgia.

In addition to producing flooding rainfall, Michael's outer bands can briefly spin up damaging tornadoes. This tornado risk will expand into more of Georgia and the Carolinas late Wednesday into Thursday.



4:20 a.m. CDT Wednesday:

Rain is beginning to fall in Panama City, Florida, as dangerous Michael approaches the coast.

AccuWeather Extreme Meteorologist Reed Timmer captured video of lightning in the outer bands that are moving onshore.



1 a.m. CDT Wednesday:

Michael has intensified to a Category 4 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 130 mph. Further intensification may occur prior to the storm making landfall near Panama City, Florida, around midday Wednesday.

GOES Michael

This satellite image shows Michael as a Category 4 hurricane early Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018. (NOAA/GOES)



12:15 a.m. CDT Wednesday:

The outer rain bands of Michael are already approaching the Florida Panhandle. Conditions will only deteriorate across the panhandle as Wednesday progresses.

Michael is now expected to make landfall as a Category 4 hurricane around midday Wednesday.

Michael outer rainbands


Click here for earlier reports on Michael.

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