Hurricane Michael a Record-Breaking Storm [UPDATING]

Still far off, Michael a growing menace to Florida Panhandle

Michael, which made landfall near Mexico Beach, Florida, around 1:30 p.m. Wednesday with howling 155-mph gales, clocked in as the fourth-strongest by wind speed at landfall and the most fierce in 26 years.

The Atmospheric Infrared Sounder or AIRS instrument aboard NASA's Aqua satellite passed over Hurricane Michael on October 8 at 2:47 p.m. EDT (1847 UTC) just after it strengthened into a Category 1 hurricane and analyzed the storm in infrared light.

Hurricane Michael was packing winds of up to 140 miles per hour (220 km per hour), hours before it was set to make landfall on Florida's Panhandle or Florida's Big Bend where it potentially could unleash devastating waves as high as 13 feet (4 meters), the National Hurricane Center (NHC) warned.

"We are catching some hell", said Timothy Thomas, who rode out the storm with his wife in their second-floor apartment in Panama City Beach. He points to 2005's Dennis which hit Santa Rosa Beach and 1995's Hurricane Opal that made landfall in Pensacola.

"Hurricane Michael is a deadly Category 4 storm".

Michael is slowly winding northeast through the Panhandle and into parts of Alabama and Georgia before hitting the Carolinas and curving back out to sea.

"The time to evacuate coastal areas has come and gone", Florida Gov. Rick Scott said at a news conference Wednesday.

Scott has declared a state of emergency in 35 Florida counties, mostly encompassing rural areas known for small tourist cities, beaches, wildlife reserves and Tallahassee, the state capital.

Forecasters expect Hurricane Michael to grow stronger still as it crosses the Gulf of Mexico on its way to Florida's Panhandle. "You can not hide from storm surge, so get out if an evacuation is ordered".

The storm appeared to be so powerful that it is expected to remain a hurricane as it moves over Georgia early Thursday. It had maximum sustained winds of 140 miles per hour and was moving north at 13 miles per hour.

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A team of Massachusetts Red Cross volunteers headed south yesterday to Florida to help tens of thousands of people threatened by Hurricane Michael, expected to hit the Panhandle and the Southeast today.

The University of Georgia's Marshall Shepherd, a former president of the American Meteorological Society, called it a "life-altering event" on Facebook and said he watched the storm's growth on satellite images with growing alarm.

"I don't get it", Smith said Wednesday morning. A hurricane warning is in effect from the same county Line to the Suwannee River.

Tropical storm warnings were in effect for parts of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina. Tropical-storm force winds extending 185 miles (295 kilometers) from the center were already lashing the coast.

"We don't know if it's going to wipe out our house or not", Jason McDonald, of Panama City, said as he and his wife drove north to safety into Alabama with their two children, ages 5 and 7. He focused on islands off the coast whose bridges may close as the storm approaches. "And then you're riding it out in your vehicle instead of something else". "If you have been told to leave, you need to go".

"If you live along the coast and were told to evacuate...this is YOUR LAST CHANCE".

"Hurricane Michael can not break Florida", Scott vowed.

Hurricane Michael has killed one person in northern Florida - the first confirmed death from the powerful storm.

After being battered for almost three hours by strong winds and heavy rains, roads in Panama City were virtually impassable and trees, satellite dishes and traffic lights lay in the streets.

Her declaration activates the state's emergency operations plan.

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