Hurricane Michael clobbered and flooded neighborhoods in Florida that were in its path after the Category 4 storm made landfall Wednesday afternoon as one of the strongest hurricanes ever to hit the U.S. According to meteorologists, no Category 4 or 5 hurricane has made landfall in the Florida Panhandle since record-keeping began in 1851.
Shortly before slamming Florida’s Panhandle, Hurricane Michael had strengthened to a Category 4 storm with sustained winds of 150 mph that was expected to flood the coast with deadly storm surge. The National Weather Service said the hurricane made landfall just 2 mph away from being classified as a Category 5 storm.
Emergency officials across the region, in fear of their own safety, temporarily stopped responding to 911 calls from residents who hadn’t evacuated. Some area newsrooms lost power, cutting off the flow of information from local journalists covering the storm.
“This is the worst storm that our Florida Panhandle has seen in a century,” Florida Gov. Rick Scott said at a news conference at the state’s emergency operations center in Tallahassee.
The storm’s central pressure had plunged the lowest recorded for any hurricane to hit the U.S. except for Hurricane Camille in 1969 and an unnamed hurricane in 1935, which were both storms with Category 5 winds.
Michael is forecast to lash coastal areas of Florida, Alabama and Georgia with as much as 12 inches of rain. Farther inland, damaging winds, torrential rain and life-threatening flash floods are forecast for parts of Georgia and Alabama.
One of the biggest concerns on the coast is storm surge. If the storm moves ashore during high tide, a 130-mile stretch of the coast could see storm surges as high as 14 feet.
Michael could cause as many as 1.8 million customers to lose power in Florida and southern Georgia.
[Los Angeles Times]