'Ferocious' Hurricane Michael floods town, rips up trees after crashing into Florida

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Unlike Florence, Michael is moving along and will continue to move rather quickly through the southeastern United States and then offshore by Friday.

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".

"The historical record, going back to 1851, finds no category four hurricane ever hitting the Florida panhandle".

Unprecedented? This could be the first time a 4 or stronger hurricane has ever made landfall in the Florida panhandle, per TWC.

Supercharged by abnormally warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, the Category 4 storm crashed ashore in the early afternoon near Mexico Beach, a tourist town about midway along the Panhandle, a 200-mile (320-kilometer) stretch of white-sand beach resorts, fishing towns and military bases.

Even before Hurricane Michael made full landfall - which is the point where the eye of the storm hits land - it was knocking down trees with powerful winds and had caused flooding in the town of Apalachicola and Port St Joe, where more than 1.5 metres of water was reported.

An estimated 6,000 evacuees took cover in emergency shelters, majority in Florida, and that number was expected to swell to 20,000 across five states by week's end, Mr Kieserman said.

They're also warning people to avoid touching down trees or power lines as a safety measure.

- High tides: storm surge of 6 feet (2 meters) up to 14 feet (4 meters) forecast for Florida's Panhandle and Big Bend. Only Hurricane Camille on the Mississippi Gulf Coast in 1969 and the so-called Labor Day hurricane of 1935 in the Florida Keys were more intense.

The Weather Channel warns of "catastrophic storm surge" and incredibly high speed winds associated with the storm.

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"It is extremely emotional", she said, fighting tears.

Michael had weakened to a Category 1, with maximum winds of 90 miles per hour as of 8:00 pm Eastern time (0000 GMT), but that still left it an extremely unsafe storm.

Hurricane-force winds extended up to 45 miles (75 kilometers) from Michael's center.

Brock Long, head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), said early evacuation efforts in the area were slow.

The National Weather Service office in Tallahassee issued a dramatic appeal for people to comply with evacuation orders.

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.

Governor Rick Scott announced that thousands of law enforcement officers, utility crews and search and rescue teams would now go into recovery mode.

Meanwhile, tropical storm warnings were in effect for parts of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina.

At landfall, Michael's wind strength was just 2 miles per hour under the threshold for a Category 5 hurricane, the strongest grade of hurricane.

Scott spoke Wednesday morning with Trump, who signed a pre-landfall emergency declaration Tuesday ensuring that federal resources would be available before and after the storm in the 35 counties where the governor declared a state of emergency.

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