Michael weakens to tropical storm as it moves across Georgia

Still far off, Michael a growing menace to Florida Panhandle

Still far off, Michael a growing menace to Florida Panhandle

The first confirmed report of a storm-related fatality came in Wednesday night, when officials in Gadsden County, near Tallahassee, said that a man was found dead in his home after a tree crashed through the roof during the storm.

At 5 a.m., an Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter crew reported top sustained winds up to near 140 miles per hour (225 kph) with higher gusts.

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.

Florida officials said roughly 375,000 people up and down the Gulf Coast had been urged or ordered to evacuate, including all non-essential personnel at Tyndall Air Force Base east of Panama City.

Rainfall could reach up to 30 centimetres and the storm surge could swell to four metres.

Evacuations spanned 22 counties from the Florida Panhandle into north central Florida. But the fast-moving, fast-strengthening storm didn't give people much time to prepare, and emergency authorities lamented that many ignored the warnings and seemed to think they could ride it out.

"I guess it's the worst-case scenario".

"I was asked this morning to go", Hall told the Herald.

USA Today also reported that storm winds could end up breaking up the red tide and pulling it away from beaches.

Marshall Shepherd, a former president of the American Meteorological Society, called it a "life-altering event", writing on Facebook that he watched the storm's growth on satellite images with a pit in his stomach.

The unexpected brute quickly sprang from a weekend tropical depression and grew to top winds of 145 miles per hour (230 kph), the most powerful hurricane in recorded history for this stretch of the Florida coast.

"We've seen videos, we've seen pictures", county spokesman Louis Svehla said. "Hopefully more people will leave".

The Florida Panhandle has already high levels of the toxic algae this year.

"I know people are tired from Florence, but don't let this storm catch you with your guard down", North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said. "You can rebuild your home, you cannot rebuild your life". He pulled two small boat docks from the water, packed his pickup and picked some beans from his garden before getting out - like hundreds of thousands elsewhere.

Power outages soared through the day, reaching more than 300,000 by Wednesday evening, with almost 90 percent of Bay County - home to Mexico Beach and Panama City - losing power. "We want to get them out of the way".

"The time to evacuate coastal areas has come and gone", Florida Gov. Rick Scott said at a news conference Wednesday. Numerous preparations are being made ahead of the storm.

Mandatory evacuations are underway in Bay County, which includes Panama City, and Gulf and Franklin counties.

"We are deploying a massive wave of responses by land, air and sea", he said. "This might be really bad and serious". That included Pensacola Beach but not in Pensacola itself, a city of about 54,000.

A tropical storm warning was issued from Fernandina Beach, Florida, to South Santee River South Carolina.

Forecasters said it also could bring 3-6in of rain to Georgia, the Carolinas and Virginia, triggering flash flooding in a corner of the country still recovering from Florence.

The bayfront city of Apalachicola, Florida's oyster capital, suffered severe flooding and property damage along aptly named Water Street, home to several restaurants.

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