First Death Reported as Hurricane Michael Devastates Florida Panhandle

Mitchell Pope tries to salvage what he can from his mobile home on Oct. 10 in Saint Marks

Now a tropical storm, Michael is the most powerful storm ever to hit Florida's Panhandle; senior correspondent Rick Leventhal reports from Panama City Beach.

As Hurricane Michael barreled through the Gulf of Mexico toward northwest Florida on Wednesday, unsafe storm surges had already begun flooding the state's vulnerable coastal communities.

The threshold for a Category 5 hurricane is 157 miles per hour maximum sustained winds.

The first of the clips, taken this morning, showed the then-category 4 storm as it made landfall between Tyndall Air Force Base and Mexico Beach. Up to a foot of rainfall was forecast for some areas, still recovering from Hurricane Florence's flooding.

The National Hurricane Center says Hurricane Leslie and Tropical Storm Nadine are no threat to land over the open Atlantic Ocean, but Tropical Storm Sergio is expected to hit Mexico's Baja California Peninsula later this week and threaten the southern U.S. Plains and the Ozarks by the weekend. Up to a foot (30 cm) of rain was forecast in Florida. Smith, the sheriff of Franklin County, a coastal patch south of Tallahassee, told CNN that the county was almost isolated after most of the main roads were rendered impassable from flooding and downed trees.

Kirsten Fiscus, a journalist, was less than 25 miles (40 kilometres) away in Panama City when Michael's eye made landfall.

"My God, it's scary".

"It feels like a nightmare", she said."Looking at the pictures, I'm thinking there is not a house left in that town".

Neighborhood streets flooded as waves battered the shoreline.

By Wednesday night, more than 403,000 homes and businesses were without electricity in Florida, Georgia and Alabama, utility companies said.

More than 5,000 evacuees sought shelter in Tallahassee, which is about 40km from the coast but is covered by live oak and pine trees that can fall and cause power outages even in smaller storms.

Hundreds of thousands of people were ordered to evacuate their homes and the governor told residents that if they have not already done so it was now too late.

Michael is making its way northeast toward Georgia and the Carolinas at about 14 miles per hour (22.5 km/h).

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Panama City looked like a war zone after being battered for almost three hours by strong winds and heavy rains.

"Lake City dodged a huge one here", Reynolds said.

Residents of the neighboring state of Georgia should also expect to be heavily impacted by the storm, the FEMA head said.

- Get out: roughly 375,000 people in Florida warned to evacuate.

People seek safety in a shelter as Hurricane Michael approaches, October 10, 2018, in Panama City, Fla.

An estimated 6,000 evacuees took cover in emergency shelters, majority in Florida, and that number was expected to swell to 20,000 across five states by week's end, Kieserman said.

See the latest from the Capital Weather Gang here and track the storm's path here.

"I felt like the odds are in our favor", Reynolds said.

"This situation has NEVER happened before", it said on Twitter. He was briefed by FEMA's Long in the Oval Office on preparations.

The storm came ashore as a category 4 hurricane on the five-step Saffir-Simpson wind scale, before it was downgraded to a category 3. It was the most powerful hurricane to hit the continental U.S.in almost 50 years. 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.

President Donald Trump has since approved an emergency declaration for Florida, permitting the federal government to provide resources and aid during Hurricane Michael.

600: The number of Florida state troopers assigned to response and recovery efforts throughout the storm.

The hurricane also ripped the roofs off homes.

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