WHAT'S HAPPENING: Widespread catastrophic damage in Florida

WHAT'S HAPPENING: Widespread catastrophic damage in Florida

The governors of Florida, Georgia, Alabama, and North and SC have declared emergencies for at least parts of their states, the New York Times said.

In large areas of Mexico Beach, homes were obliterated or reduced to stacks of rubble, aerial video from CNN showed on Thursday.

Wide swaths of the region could be powerless for weeks, including the Florida Panhandle and parts of Alabama and Georgia, said Brock Long, administrator at the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

One objective as recovery got under way was to help people who could be trapped in various areas along the coast, he told a news conference.

At 02:00 local time on Wednesday, the eye of Michael was about 170 miles south-west of the coastal city of Apalachicola.

Michael had left a trail of utility wires on roads, flattened tall pine trees and knocked a steeple from a church.

"Panama City is a vibrant seaside city".

"The roof fell in but we lived through it", he said. State officials said 285 people in Mexico Beach had refused to leave ahead of the hurricane despite a mandatory evacuation order. Much of the affected area is rural and known for small tourist cities, beaches and wildlife reserves, as well as the state capital, Tallahassee.

In its latest bulletin, the Miami-based National Hurricane Center (NHC) said Michael had become "an extremely risky category 4 hurricane".

Hurricane Michael is forecast to deliver catastrophic damage to Gulf County in the Panhandle of Florida, Southern Bay County in the Panhandle of Florida and Southwestern Franklin County in the Big Bend of are of Florida. The forecast calls for 3-6 inches of rain in most areas, with isolated maximums of 8 inches, into Friday. It then roared north through southwest Georgia and on Thursday moved into North and SC, states that are still reeling from historic flooding left by Hurricane Florence last month.

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AccuWeather forecasters said the storm will likely hit Georgia has a Category 1 storm.

Long said several hospitals in the Panhandle were hit by the hurricane and patients had to be evacuated. Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey said she fears widespread power outages and other problems would follow. "This is going to have structure-damaging winds along the coast and hurricane-force winds inland".

Evacuations spanned 22 counties from the Florida Panhandle into north-central Florida.

"The wind that came through here was surreal".

More than 370,000 people in Florida have been ordered to evacuate and move to higher ground.

A Category 4 hurricane has never made landfall in Florida's panhandle. Wind damage was also evident. Many trees are waterlogged due to the excessive rainfall from this past summer.

"The FL panhandle needs to be prepared for a direct hit with sustained hurricane force winds", Scott wrote on Twitter on Monday.

10 A.M. Hurricane Michael continued to intensify Tuesday morning as it marched northward toward a predicted Northwest Florida landfall. 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.

As thousands of National Guard troops, law enforcement officers and medical teams fanned out, the governor pleaded with people in the devastated areas to stay away for now because of fallen trees, power lines and other debris.

"We're looking at a significant storm with significant impact, possibly greater than I've seen in my 59 years of life, " Johnson said of his city on the shore of Apalachicola Bay, which where about 90 percent of Florida's oysters are harvested.

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