Michael weakens to tropical storm as it moves across Georgia

Michael slammed into the Florida Panhandle Wednesday as the most powerful storm to strike the USA mainland in 50 years.

Hurricane Michael has weakened to a Category 1 storm, but is still a risky rainmaker as it travels across Georgia.

Forecasters said it would unleash damaging wind and rain all the way into the Carolinas, which are still recovering from Hurricane Florence's epic flooding.

A Red Cross official said it's possible that as many as 320,000 people on Florida's Gulf Coast did not evacuate and are likely riding out the storm.

"Those who stick around to experience storm surge don't typically live to tell about it unfortunately", said FEMA's Long.

While originally a Category 1 storm, Michael was upgraded to a Category 4 hurricane just hours before it was set to make landfall. He said that first responders were working to clear downed power lines, poles and trees that have prevented them from reaching the structure where the child is. Only Hurricane Camille on the Mississippi Gulf Coast in 1969 and the so-called Labor Day hurricane of 1935 in the Florida Keys were more intense.

"It's going to be disgusting", Thomas told CNN.

The storm made landfall northwest of Mexico Beach around noon on Wednesday, with an eye so clear and wide it could easily be seen from space. Governor Rick Scott said there was a "lot of roof damage" in the storm's path. More than 375,000 people had been urged or ordered to evacuate, but emergency authorities lamented that many people ignored the warnings and seemed to think they could ride it out.

The National Weather Service office in the state capital Tallahassee issued a dramatic appeal for people to comply with evacuation orders.




Up to 12 inches of rain could fall in Florida's Panhandle and Big Bend areas, as well as southeastern Alabama and southern Georgia.

"This situation has NEVER happened before", it said on Twitter.

Michael benefited from deep pockets of warm water in the Gulf, which meant that even as the storm stirred the water it crossed, it wasn't churning up cool water that could sap its strength, said Bryan Norcross, a hurricane specialist with WPLG, a TV station in South Florida. The hurricane hit the Florida Panhandle as a category 4 storm.

But many people living in counties farther east in North Central Florida were spared.

The hurricane is 90 miles south-west of Panama City as of 8am eastern time.

Major cities such as Houston were flooded, causing as much as $300 billion in damage, according to estimates.

Though wind speed is the basis for hurricane categories, central pressure is actually a better measure of damage that a hurricane will cause, a study published past year in the journal Nature Communications found.

After Michael left the Panhandle late Wednesday, Kaylee O'Brien was crying as she sorted through the remains of the apartment she shared with three roommates at Whispering Pines apartments, where the smell of broken pine trees was thick in the air.

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