'Seek Refuge Immediately' Potentially Catastrophic Storm Hits US
Hurricane Micheal has claimed its first victim after making landfall on the Florida Panhandle.
Local media reports one man has died after a tree fell on his home near Greensboro, Florida.
Shelters opened across several states as Hurricane Michael -- a "potentially catastrophic" Category 4 storm -- closed in on the Florida Panhandle.
The intense Category 4 hurricane was packing top sustained winds of 155 mph when it crashed ashore in the early afternoon near Mexico Beach.
The National Hurricane Center described Michael as "potentially catastrophic." Michael was the worst storm ever to hit the Panhandle.
Nearly 30 million people in the Southeast were in its crosshairs. Forecasters said Michael was bringing damaging winds and potentially life-threatening storm surge
More than 375,000 people up and down the Gulf Coast were warned to clear out.
"The time to evacuate has come and gone ... SEEK REFUGE IMMEDIATELY," Florida Gov. Rick Scott tweeted Wednesday morning, while the sheriff in Panama City's Bay County issued a shelter-in-place order before dawn.
Michael is so powerful that it is expected to remain a hurricane as it moves over central Georgia early Thursday.
The National Hurricane Center said Michael intensified as it was making landfall near Mexico Beach, Florida, as a catastrophic Category 4 hurricane, pushing a deadly storm surge and whipping the coast with 155 mph winds. Less than an hour before the storm made landfall, the hurricane center said Michael had top sustained winds of 150 mph.
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 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.
Storm surge in the Florida Panhandle is what FEMA is most worried about from Hurricane Michael, the agency's Administrator Brock Long said on "CBS This Morning" on Wednesday. Forecasters said the storm surge could rise to as much as 14 feet in some areas.
Long said people who hadn't evacuated ahead of the storm were putting their lives in danger. "We saw this in Florence," he said, referring to the hurricane that hit North Carolina and South Carolina during the summer.
"We put the warnings out, and a large portion of people died in their vehicles driving over flooded-out roads even though we're saying turn around and don't drown," Long said. On Wednesday morning, Florida Gov. Rick Scott urged people who were still in an evacuation zone along the coast to seek refuge, saying that it was too late to evacuate.