PANAMA CITY, Florida (AP) — The Latest on Hurricane Michael (all times Eastern):
The National Hurricane Center says Michael is making landfall near Mexico Beach, Florida, as a catastrophic Category 4 Hurricane, pushing a deadly storm surge and whipping the coast with 155 mph (250 kph) winds.
Forecasters mark landfall as the place and time when the center of the eye strikes land. Minutes earlier, Michael’s eyewall came ashore between Panama City and St. Vincent Island, and the hurricane center warned everyone inside the relative calm of the eye not to venture outside.
Hurricane-force winds extended outward up to 45 miles (75 km) from the center.
Those winds were tearing some buildings apart in Panama City Beach. One beachfront structure under construction could be seen collapsing, and metal roofing material flew sideways across parking lots amid sheets of rain.
He says this one will inflict serious damage across central and southern Georgia, and he’s calling on people to protect themselves, their families, and anyone who needs assistance.
More than 1,200 evacuees are staying in Georgia state parks, which are waiving entrance fees for those seeking shelter.
The storm also is expected to ravage the state’s peanut, pecan and cotton crops.
U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Brock Long said Michael is “a hurricane of the worst kind.”
He said there are about 3,000 FEMA employees in the field, plus aircraft and search and rescue teams staged to move into Florida and Georgia as well.
“The citizens in Georgia need to wake up and pay attention,” Long said. He says this hurricane will likely be the worst storm that anyone in southwest and central Georgia will have seen in decades.
Long applauded local officials who urged evacuations, and said “people are going to die as a result of not heeding the warnings.”
President Donald Trump is being briefed on Hurricane Michael as it closes in on the Florida Panhandle with potentially catastrophic 150 mph winds.
Trump is warning of the power of the storm as he meets with his Homeland Security Secretary and the Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Brock Long.
Long is describing the storm as a “Gulf Coast hurricane of the worst kind,” which he says will be similar in strength to “an EF3 tornado making landfall.”
Trump says he spoke with Florida Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday and says the federal government is coordinating with all of the states that could be impacted.
The Category 4 storm could be most powerful storm on record ever to hit the region. More than 375,000 people up and down the Gulf Coast have been warned to evacuate.
Thousands of people along Florida’s northern Gulf Coast have heeded warnings to evacuate, and many are cramming into high schools put to use as shelters.
Diane Farris and her son Waine Hall walked to the shelter nearest their home in Panama City, Rutherford High School, and found about 1,100 people crammed into a space meant for about half as many.
She says the cafeteria and gym are full so they’re putting people in the hallways and and almost every room.
And she says more people are coming every minute.
Farris says she’s terrified about predictions of “the big one” and desperate to know where her relatives are.
Another shelter resident, Michigan native Pamela Cowley, says she’s nervous because people are saying they could go weeks without electricity.