Hurricane Michael slams into Florida with strong winds
PANAMA CITY, Florida. (AP) — Supercharged by abnormally warm waters in the Gulf of Mexico, Michael slammed into the Florida Panhandle on Wednesday with potentially catastrophic winds of 155 miles per hour, the most powerful hurricane to hit the U.S. mainland in nearly 50 years.
Michael blew ashore near Mexico Beach, a tourist town about midway along the Panhandle, a lightly populated, 200-mile stretch of white-sand beach resorts, fishing towns, and military bases.
Its winds roaring, it battered the coastline with sideways-blown rain, powerful gusts, and crashing waves.
It swamped streets, bent trees, stripped away limbs and leaves, knocked out power, shredded awnings and sent other building debris flying. Explosions apparently caused by blown transformers could be heard.
“The window to evacuate has come to a close,” Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator Brock Long said.
The meteorological brute quickly sprang from a weekend tropical depression, becoming a furious Category 4 by early Wednesday, up from a Category 2 less than a day earlier.
It was the most powerful hurricane on record to hit the Panhandle.
Based on its internal barometric pressure, Michael was the most powerful hurricane to blow ashore on the U.S. mainland since Camille in 1969.
Based on wind speed, it was the fourth-strongest, behind Andrew in 1992, Camille, and the biggest one of all, an unnamed 1935 Labor Day storm that had winds of 184 miles per hour.
More than 375,000 people up and down the Gulf Coast were urged to evacuate as Michael closed in.
But emergency authorities lamented that many people ignored the warnings and seemed to think they could ride it out.