Hurricane Michael swooped ashore Wednesday afternoon at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida, near Mexico Beach, with winds of 155 mph and a pressure gradient of 919 millibars, making it one of the worst storms ever to hit the U.S.
The estimates for property damage along the coast still were untabulated, with video confirming roofs gone from the wind and water flooding buildings.
But the bigger part of its impact still could be to come, with its progress into the state of Georgia expected to be marked by winds far in excess of 100 mph yet, and tornadoes spawned by the turbulence.
Authorities were issuing warnings there, as well as in South Carolina, the next state it would it.
Fatalities were not yet reported as the storm surge kept even rescuers from returning immediately to the Florida panhandle region that was hit.
Michael’s winds of 155 mph were the strongest since Andrew came ashore in 1992 with 165 mph winds, and it had the lowest pressure, at 919 mb, since Camille had 900 mb pressure in 1969.
Wunderground, the weather site, warned even after Michael reached land that it still was strong enough to inflict severe damage on well-built frame homes with “loss of most of the roof structure and/or some exterior walls.”
“Most trees will be snapped or uprooted and power poles downed. … Power outages will last weeks to possibly months.”
That is because it is not just power lines that would be broken by the intense winds, it is the power structure itself, the power stations, power poles, and more. Rebuilding the system is far more work that restringing lines, and estimates are that a million people could be left without power by the storm.
AP said with “winds shrieking, Michael crashed ashore,” and blamed its strength on very warm Gulf of Mexico waters from which the storm drew strength.
“Catching some hell,” is how Timothy Thomas described the storm to AP, as he rode it out in Panama City Beach.
Nearly 400,000 people were told to evacuate and many did.
Some did not, prompting Walton County Sheriff Michael Adkinson to say on social media, “While it might be their constitutional right to be an idiot, it’s not their right to endanger everyone else!” the AP said.
A storm surge of eight feet left beach-fronting roads and buildings under water, and its strength was the concern as it moved across the Florida Panhandle into Georgia.
The power left experts fearing what would be found when the water recedes in a day or two.
“We are in new territory,” National Hurricane Center Meteorologist Dennis Feltgen wrote on Facebook, the AP said. “The historical record, going back to 1851, finds no Category 4 hurricane ever hitting the Florida panhandle.”
The AP claimed that the storm was “likely to fire up the debate over global warming” because “scientists say global warming is responsible for more intense and more frequent extreme weather, such as storms, droughts, floods and fires.”
But AP admitted scientists cannot directly link a single weather event to global warming.
At Tyndall, military commanders ordered the families to evacuate, and the aircraft, including F-22 Raptors, flown out of the hurricane zone for safety.
After the storm had moved into Georgia, the National Hurricane Center still warned “catastrophic winds” were being reported, including 125 mph readings in the state.
While hurricanes usually drop quickly into tropical storm categories once they make landfall, Michael was expected to continue within the hurricane category far into Wednesday night.