Hurricane Michael causes 'unimaginable destruction' to Florida

'Monster' Hurricane Michael strengthens on its way to Florida

A day Michael made landfall as a deadly Category 4 hurricane, 10Weather is already monitoring a new tropical disturbance in the west-central Caribbean Sea.

Michael, he said, did not follow the common behavior of storms, which tend to weaken as they reach the shore because of interaction with the land.

The storm has sustained winds of 130mph (210km/h) and is due to make landfall at about midday (16:00 GMT). But it's still menacing the Southeast with heavy rains, winds and a threat of spinoff tornadoes. The wind force in the center at that time had reached 249 km/h.

Michael grew from a tropical storm to a Category 4 hurricane in about 40 hours. It was centered about 30 miles southwest of Macon, Georgia. Destructive winds "Michael" felled trees and cut power lines that come across his path. Homes were swallowed in storm surge.

Speaking later to reporters, Trump said the hurricane was "incredibly powerful".

The hurricane, the fiercest to hit Florida in 80 years, pummeled communities across the Panhandle and turned streets into roof-high waterways.

Farther inland, Tallahassee city officials were grappling with wind damage that had brought down numerous city's trees, blocking streets and knocking out power. Graham said storm surge will inundate the Aucilla River there to a point where it will "flow backward".

Scott said one benefit of the rapidly moving Michael was that it hit during the day and was out of the state before sunset. A light pole toppled onto an SUV in the parking lot.

Thousands of houses were destroyed by the third-most powerful hurricane on record to hit the continental US. She and her daughter booked a hotel room through Friday.

Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Brock Long said officials were just starting to go in and survey the damage but expect power to be out for weeks in some areas.

Roofs and awnings are peeled from buildings, pieces of homes are scattered amid snapped trees and downed power lines, chunks of beaches are washed away. "But never on top of us".

But hours before the storm hit, it was too late for many to flee.

Florida Governor Rick Scott told the Weather Channel the damage from Panama City down to Mexico Beach was "way worse than anybody ever anticipated".

Asked if there would be more evacuation orders, he said officials were monitoring the situation but that people in potentially affected areas should not take any chances against such a large storm surge.

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Scott said 1,000 search and rescue personnel were ready to respond as soon as Michael passes.

The Florida National Guard has deployed 3,500 members for search-and-rescue and humanitarian aid, with assistance from National Guard units from as far away as NY and Kansas.

Michael's barometric pressure at landfall was 919 millibars, by that measurement the third-strongest hurricane to hit the US on record, trailing on the 1935 Labor Day Hurricane and Hurricane Camille in 1969.

The hurricane was located at about 335 miles south of Panama City.

Both NOAA and Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter aircraft have flown through the hurricane's four quadrants - and the NHC says, "The planes actually passed through the eye around the same time [Tuesday morning], and reported that they could see one another".

Gale and James Berry fled to a city shelter in Lincoln High School's cafeteria. Uprooted trees. Piles of rubble and debris everywhere.

In Apalachicola, Sally Crown rode out the storm in her house.

"You don't want to have to stay there", she said.

By 8 a.m. EDT (1200 GMT) Thursday it had been downgraded to a tropical storm with 50-mph (85-kph) winds as it pushed through Georgia into the Carolinas, the National Hurricane Center said.

Hurricane Michael left a trail of devastation along a huge swathe of the Florida Panhandle.

Forecasters have warned heavy rain could spark the same kind of life-threatening flash flooding in the Big Bend, Panhandle, Georgia and SC and have continued to warn Michael's storm surge is the most serious threat to the coast as the bend in the coastline traps destructive waves.

"Tropical storm wind gusts will continue across much of SC and central and eastern North Carolina, with sustained tropical storm force winds expected along the coast of the Carolinas", the agency said.

Bacon and Rice reported from Mclean, Va.

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