Monster Hurricane Michael brings 'unimaginable devastation' as it slams Florida

Storm clouds form before Hurricane Michael comes ashore

Hurricane Michael threatens Florida with 150mph winds - Live

Hurricane Michael, the most powerful storm the USA has seen in almost 50 years, is moving through the Florida Panhandle, ripping apart homes and sending walls of water rushing inland.

By 8pm, Michael was weakened to category-1 storm, with wind gusts reaching 90mph (144kph), the National Hurricane Center reported. Nadine is expected to fizzle out and dissipate in the open waters after running into wind shear, drier air and slightly cooler ocean temperatures, the hurricane center said. "Those who stick around to experience storm surge don't typically live to tell about it unfortunately".

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 he plans to visit storm-ravaged areas as soon as he can.

When Michael smashed into the coastline yesterday, debris was strewn across miles of Florida's coastline.

Severe flooding, structural building damage, uprooted trees and downed power lines appeared widespread in coastal areas near where the storm made landfall.

Scientists have long warned that global warming will make storms more destructive, and some say the evidence for this may already be visible.

Across the bay in Panama City Beach, a resort city on the Gulf of Mexico known for its white-sand beach and amusement parks, winds of about 100 miles per hour furiously whipped the trees in the early afternoon and pulled apart homes.

Position: The hurricane was about 120 miles southwest of Panama City, Florida, as of 6 a.m. ET this morning, per CNN.

An estimated 375,000 people in more than 20 counties were ordered or advised to evacuate.

As the Tallahassee office of the National Weather Service said on Twitter earlier Wednesday: "If you're not sheltered in place now, you need to be!"

"Going back through records to 1851 we can't find another Cat 4 in this area, so this is unfortunately a historical and incredibly risky and life-threatening situation", he said.

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.

"This happened so quickly", he said.

President Donald Trump issued an emergency declaration for Florida, freeing up federal funds for relief operations and providing the assistance of FEMA, which has more than 3,000 people on the ground. Some of those areas are still working to recover from Hurricane Florence.

A state of emergency has been declared in several dozen counties along Florida's Panhandle and Big Bend regions. Neighborhood streets flooded as waves battered the shoreline.

Footage shared at around 4pm showed the wind speeds had dropped to 140mph, with a central pressure of 927 MB, but it remained a "very powerful hurricane". Wind damage was also evident.

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