Michael 3rd most intense USA landfalling hurricane on record

Extremely powerful Hurricane Michael crashed into Florida's northwestern Panhandle coast on Wednesday, flooding towns and ripping up trees with 155 mile per hour (249 kph) winds and the potential for a devastating storm surge.

Florida officials said Michael, packing winds of 250km/h (155mph), was the most powerful storm to hit the state's northern Panhandle area in more than a century.

Pictures and video from Mexico Beach, a community of about 1,000 people, showed scenes of devastation with houses floating in flooded streets, some ripped from their foundations and missing roofs.

Hurricane Michael is closing in on the Florida Panhandle with potentially catastrophic winds of 150 miles per hour.

Based on wind speed, Michael is the fourth-strongest US -landfalling hurricane, behind Andrew, Camille in 1969, and the biggest one of all, an unnamed 1935 Labor Day storm that had winds of 184 miles per hour.

Hurricane center Director Ken Graham said on Facebook that Michael would be the worst storm in recorded history to hit the Panhandle. Surges of as high as 14 feet are expected around where Michael made landfall near Apalachicola, Florida. In Panacea, the water was already rapidly rising. Based on wind speed, it was the fourth-strongest, behind the Labor Day storm (184 miles per hour, or 296 kph), Camille and Andrew in 1992.

The fate of about 280 residents who authorities said defied evacuation orders was unknown.

A hurricane warning remains in place from the Alabama-Florida border to the Suwannee River in Florida. Smith said the situation was unsafe even for emergency personnel.

"That's one scary-looking storm", NASA astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor said in an audio feed from the station shortly before the storm hit land.

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

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Smith could not provide details on the victim.

The death, in an area west of state capital Tallahassee, was the first confirmed since Michael made landfall.

By 8pm, Michael was weakened to category-1 storm, with wind gusts reaching 90mph (144kph), the National Hurricane Center reported.

Hurricane Michael is predicted to travel northeast across the southern USA, reaching the Atlantic Ocean again on tomorrow night (Oct. 11).

"Michael will then move northeastward across the southeastern United States and then move off the Mid-Atlantic coast by early Friday".

"Hurricane Michael is an unprecedented event and can not be compared to any of our previous events".

Marino, who lives with his girlfriend and her grandmother, said water started dripping through the chimney, and they feared the wind would send the tree crashing through the roof.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D) declared a state of emergency Wednesday morning in 66 counties.

"This happened so quickly", he said.

But many people living in counties farther east in North Central Florida were spared. The most likely cause for such sudden changes?

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