First Death Reported as Hurricane Michael Devastates Florida Panhandle

Based on its internal barometric pressure, Michael was the third most powerful hurricane to hit the USA mainland, behind the unnamed Labor Day storm of 1935 and Camille in 1969.

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Olivia Smith, public information officer for the Gadsden County Board of County Commissioners, said there was "one hurricane-related fatality", adding that the incident was "debris-related".

Powerful winds, devastating storm surge and heavy rain are predicted in the Florida Panhandle, the finger-shaped strip of land along the Gulf of Mexico.

Hurricane-force winds extended up to 45 miles (72 kilometers) from Michael's center at the height of the storm.

As it came ashore, Michael was just shy of a Category 5 - defined as a storm packing wind speeds of 157 miles per hour or above.

Hurricane Michael roared ashore in Florida on Wednesday, flooding homes and streets and toppling trees and power lines in the Gulf of Mexico beachfront town where it made landfall as a raging Category 4 storm.

Forecasters said it would unleash damaging wind and rain all the way into the Carolinas, which are still recovering from Hurricane Florence's epic flooding.

"Where homes were, they are not", Ginger Zee, ABC's chief meteorologist, said in a video posted on Twitter. This storm could also have some profound effects on how the sector thinks about (and models) loss potential from Gulf Coast hurricanes as a result of the pre-landfall intensification and distance inland that hurricane force winds have been measured.

Other buildings were stripped of their walls and roofs or ripped apart by downed trees and power lines. A storm surge of almost 8 feet was reported at Apalachicola.

"We just finished renovating and updating", she said.

"What you're going to see is a storm moving very rapidly through Georgia, and it will maintain hurricane strength through southwest Georgia and central Georgia as it passes through later today and early tomorrow", a representative for FEMA's told Good Morning America.

Two to three inches of rain is expected for the area during the storm as well.

The local National Weather Service office in Tallahassee issued a chilling warning that Michael was "not comparable to anything we have seen before". He acknowledged that a lot of the residents in the area were poor and said it was probably tough to leave.

Addressing the media at the state Emergency Operations Center Wednesday afternoon, Gov. Rick Scott said a "massive wave of response" was already underway from the state, utilities and the U.S. Coast Guard, for the storm that "came really fast".

Just a few miles to the east of Panama City Beach lies the tourist town of Mexico Beach, which took a direct hit. "The historical record, going back to 1851, finds no Category 4 hurricane ever hitting the Florida panhandle".

It appeared to be so powerful that it was expected to remain a hurricane as it moves into Alabama and Georgia early Thursday. Michael is the fourth Category 4 hurricane to hit the U.S.in just 15 months, joining last year's trio of Harvey, Irma, and Maria - an unprecedented string of catastrophic hurricane disasters.