Hurricane Michael made landfall in the Florida Panhandle earlier today, but it did so as a category-4 hurricane with wind speeds of up to 150 mph (240 kph), rather than the category-3 that it was originally forecast to be. This is the strongest storm to hit the Panhandle on record, fueled by unusually warm 84ºF (29ºC) water temperatures. The storm is projected to track northeast over Georgia and the Carolinas, a circumstance that might exacerbate an already disastrous situation if Michael adds rain to the areas already affected by flooding from Hurricane Florence. More than 370,000 people along the Gulf coast have been ordered to evacuate, but authorities are concerned that many did not heed the warning.
Michael is now one of the most intense hurricanes to make landfall on the US mainland, and is the strongest on record to strike the Florida Panhandle. "We are in new territory," according to National Hurricane Center Meteorologist Dennis Feltgen. "The historical record, going back to 1851, finds no Category 4 hurricane ever hitting the Florida panhandle."
Hurricane-force winds currently extend up to 45 miles (75 kilometers) from the storm’s center, and rainfall amounts are forecast to reach up to 12 inches (30 centimeters), with a 14-foot (4-meter) storm surge inundating the coastline. Michael is forecast to remain at hurricane-strength as is passes over Georgia.