Panama City(October 10, 2018): Hurricane Michael opened its bombardment of the Florida Panhandle on Wednesday morning, with wind and rain beginning to batter the coastline hours before the strengthening Category 4 storm was expected to make landfall with astonishing power.
With more than 375,000 people up and down the Gulf Coast warned to evacuate, the hurricane’s leading edge began lashing the white-sand shoreline with strong winds, rain, and rising seas before daybreak, hours before Michael’s center was expected to blow ashore.
“I really fear for what things are going to look like there tomorrow at this time,” Colorado State University hurricane expert Phil Klotzbach said in an email.
More information on the Extreme Wind Warning that is currently in effect until 215pm ET. TAKE SHELTER IMMEDIATELY! Wind gusts in excess of 130mph expected within the eyewall as it moves onshore! #HurricaneMichael pic.twitter.com/NhpYNOZUl3
— NWS Tallahassee (@NWSTallahassee) October 10, 2018
The supercharged brute quickly sprang from a weekend tropical depression, becoming a furious Category 4 early Wednesday as it drew energy from the Gulf of Mexico’s unseasonably warm, 84-degree waters. Less than a day earlier, Michael was a Category 2.
“The time to evacuate has come and gone … SEEK REFUGE IMMEDIATELY,” Florida Gov. Rick Scott tweeted, while the sheriff in Panama City’s Bay County issued a shelter-in-place order before dawn.
The storm appeared to be so powerful that it is expected to remain a hurricane as it moves over Georgia early Thursday. Forecasters said it will unleash damaging wind and rain all the way into the Carolinas, which are still recovering from Hurricane Florence’s epic flooding.