Tornado watch in effect as Michael threatens Hampton Roads

Tornado watch in effect as Michael threatens Hampton Roads

Hurricane Michael claims first life in Florida, sheriffs official says

Tropical Storm Michael is accelerating through North Carolina with gusty winds and flooding rain from the southern Appalachians to parts of the East Coast into early Friday.

Michael made landfall as a catastrophic, unprecedented Florida Panhandle Category 4 hurricane early Wednesday afternoon. For a full summary on Michael's destructive storm surge flooding, winds and heavy rain, scroll down to our recap section below.

Florida officials also pleaded with residents to stay off the roads as crews tried to clear debris and emergency workers were scrambling to hard-hit areas. They asked people to avoid downed power lines, and not to drive through flooded areas. They urged residents and visitors to keep emergency phone lines open and, in some areas, to boil their water or use bottled water. They told them to position generators at least 15 feet from homes, and to stay indoors.

The center of Michael is now pushing through North Carolina with its broad area of rain from the Upstate South Carolina to Virginia and West Virginia.

• Much of the coast of the Florida Panhandle, including Panama City and Mexico Beach, was left in ruins. Mexico Beach, where the storm made landfall, was a landscape of tragedy on Thursday. Buildings crumpled and collapsed, and acres of metal, glass and wood cluttered the streets. A handful of buildings were still standing, but they were surrounded by homes and vacation rentals razed to their foundations.

Winds gusted to 50-55 mph, at times, in Augusta, Georgia, Charleston and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Thursday morning. There have been a number of reports of trees and power lines downed in eastern Georgia and South Carolina, including in the Columbia metro area.

The roof of the bases largest hangar, which has been used to store jets during weaker storms, was skinned down to its steel rafters, revealing at least three small planes inside, covered in debris. Though the video did not reveal large amounts of standing water near the flight line, it showed roofs shorn off several other buildings surrounding the hangar, garage doors punched in, and cars flipped over.

Fooding was also reported on Interstate 26 and the Interstate 126 interchange on the northwest side of Columbia early Thursday morning. Ten homes were flooded in Irmo, South Carolina, requiring some evacuations.

In North Carolina, a swift water rescue was needed due to flooding near Old Fort, and significant street flooding was reported in Hendersonville and Boone.

Bay Medical Center Sacred Heart, a 300-bed hospital in the heart of Panama City, Fla., was a tumultuous mess on Thursday morning. Hurricane Michael had strafed the center, breaking windows, damaging roofs and stripping off the outsides of some buildings. Signage was strewn in the streets. Doctors, nurses and staff members wandered outside, some crying, some looking for cell service.

The center of Michael will continue to accelerate to the east-northeast through Thursday night across North Carolina into southeast Virginia, then move off the East Coast out to sea by Friday as a post-tropical low.

• At 11 a.m. on Thursday, Michael was about 35 miles south-southeast of Charlotte, N.C., heading northeast with sustained wind speeds of up to 50 miles per hour. The storm is moving relatively quickly, at 23 m.p.h., and is expected to speed up as it crosses the Carolinas on Thursday and blows out to sea by early Friday. Click on the map below to see the storms projected path.

– Tropical-storm-force (39-plus mph) winds are possible through much of the Carolinas into Thursday night or Friday.- These winds are capable of downing trees and triggering additional power outages in these areas. This is a particular concern in areas where soil is still saturated from Florence's torrential rain in northeastern South Carolina and North Carolina.- Metro areas that may experience additional power outages through Thursday night include: Columbia, Charleston, Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham.- Strong winds are also forecast over portions southeastern Virginia and the Delmarva Peninsula as Michael becomes post-tropical off the mid-Atlantic coast late Thursday night into Friday.

The base, which sits just nine feet above sea level, is home to a series of hangars and a runway, as well as tree-lined neighborhoods for about 600 Air Force personnel. The base hosts a number of jets, including F-22 Raptor stealth fighters, which cost well over $100 million each. The base commander ordered all jets to fly to inland bases earlier in the week.

– Total rainfall of 4 to 7 inches is expected from the Carolinas and southern Virginia to the southern Delmarva Peninsula, with isolated totals up to 9 inches in North Carolina and Virginia. This will include some areas devastated by flooding from Hurricane Florence. That said, this system will move quickly rather than stall like Florence did and will, therefore, not bring extreme rainfall amounts. – The rest of the Northeast coast into southeast New England may see 1 to 3 inches of rain.

At Bay Medical Center Sacred Heart in Panama City, windows had shattered, walls were stripped to their metal girders and new patients were showing up for treatment, only to find the entrance to the emergency room boarded-up. The other hospital in Panama City, Gulf Coast Regional Medical Center, said it had suspended all services and was evacuating patients.

– As is typical with tropical cyclones, isolated tornadoes will be a threat.- Thursday and Thursday night, that tornado threat will exist from the eastern North Carolina into southeast Virginia and the Delmarva Peninsula.

– Inundation of 2 to 4 feet above ground level is possible on the sound side of North Carolina's Outer Banks as winds from Michael pile water along those coastal areas.

As the storm intersects the track that Hurricane Florence took last month, Michael is expected to drop one to four inches of rain on still-saturated ground. Several areas are under flash-flood warnings. Unlike Florence, this storms rapid motion is expected to limit the long and drenching rainfall that inundated the Carolinas coastal plain.

Hurricane Michael intensified right up to its landfall near Mexico Beach, Florida, around 12:30 p.m. CDT Wednesday as a high-end Category 4 with maximum sustained winds of 155 mph and a minimum central pressure of 919 millibars.

Michael was the third most intense continental U.S. landfall by pressure and fourth strongest by maximum sustained winds on record. Michael was also the most intense Florida Panhandle landfall on record, the first Category 4 hurricane to do so in records dating to the mid-19th century.

The National Weather Service in Charleston issued a coastal flood advisory for the Carolina coast and strong winds were already being felt in places like Myrtle Beach and Conway, a town hit particularly hard by flooding from Hurricane Florence. Tides along the Carolina coasts are expected to run three feet above normal in some areas.

The National Hurricane Center's Storm Surge Unit, estimated peak storm surge inundation of 9 to 14 feet above ground likely occurred from Mexico Beach through Apalachee Bay, a location notorious for storm surge even from less intense tropical cyclones. 

Michael's storm surge produced a peak inundation of 7.72 feet above ground level at Apalachicola, Florida, Wednesday afternoon, smashing the previous record of 6.43 feet above ground set during Hurricane Dennis in July 2005. 

The hospital was in poor condition to take in patients. Staff members said the hospital had partial electricity from its generators; there was no water and the toilets were filling up. Windows were broken. One staff member said that the fourth floor was flooded. She had tied plastic bags over her shoes and the legs of her scrubs.

Peak inundation of 5.31 feet above ground at Panama City, Florida, was second only to Hurricane Opal in 1995. Cedar Key, Florida, saw peak inundation of just over 4 feet Wednesday afternoon.

Before she had missed the call, a family friend who spoke to her brother said the situation was dire: a three-inch crack in the wall was letting water into the house. Mr. McCall, 43, was in the basement, with his wife, Kristi McCall, their 6-year-old daughter, her 10-year-old son and her parents.

An observing site near Tyndall Air Force Base, east of Panama City, measured a wind gust to 129 mph early Wednesday afternoon, and a gust to 107 mph was reported 1 mile south of Panama City.

At one time, it was estimated over 200 roads in the city of Tallahassee were blocked by fallen trees.

Richard Fausset reported from Panama City; Patricia Mazzei from Tallahassee, Fla.; and Alan Blinder from Atlanta. Reporting was contributed by Chris Dixon from Conway, S.C.; Melissa Gomez, Mihir Zaveri, Niraj Chokshi and Matthew Haag from New York; and Daniel Victor from Hong Kong.

A weather reporting station deployed by Weatherflow and the University of Florida measured a surface pressure from 920-929 millibars, an extraordinarily low pressure to measure on U.S. soil, before it was toppled, according to Shea Gibson, WeatherFlow, Inc. meteorologist.

Senator Marco Rubio of Florida said he had heard from the local authorities who described extensive damage. These are not people prone to hyperbole, Mr. Rubio said on CNN. Panama City is catastrophic damage. Someone told me, Mexico Beach is gone.

Michael also shattered Panama City's all-time low pressure record, which had stood from Hurricane Kate in 1985. 

– Florida: 129 mph at Tyndall AFB; 89 mph in Apalachicola; 71 mph in Tallahassee- Alabama: 68 mph in Dothan- Georgia: 115 mph in Donalsonville; 70 mph in Albany- South Carolina: 55 mph in Myrtle Beach; 52 mph near Charleston

The storm caused widespread damage, and the authorities said at least two people were killed. With the death toll expected to rise, one county to the next was a disaster zone of sirens, upended buildings and staggered — and newly homeless — residents.

Rainfall from Michael has now topped 6 inches in a few locations, but has been held down somewhat, primarily due to Michael's more rapid forward movement compared to Florence. Here are some notable rainfall totals by state:

– Florida: 5.26 inches at Sumatra; 3.17 inches in Tallahassee; 2.61 inches in Panama City- Alabama: 5.54 inches in Ozark; 4.92 inches in Dothan; 1.60 inches in Montgomery- Georgia: 6.48 inches near Powder Springs; 3.37 inches in Macon- South Carolina: 6.01 inches near Hartsville; 4.47 inches in Columbia- North Carolina: 9.62 inches near Black Mountain; 6.75 inches near Boone; 2.95 inches in Asheville- Virginia: 5.75 inches near White Gate; 1.40 inches in Blacksburg

Mr. Long expected the search-and-rescue process to be challenging, given all the fallen trees, debris and downed power lines. He worried that the number of people killed in the storm would rise once crews reached places where people did not evacuate.

Michael first developed as Tropical Depression Fourteen on Oct. 7 east of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula.

Winds topping 130 miles an hour knocked down trees, felled power lines, tore roofs from buildings, and ripped a static display of an F-15 fighter jet at the base entrance from its foundation, pitching it into the air and tipping it upside down.

Michael rapidly intensified from a tropical depression to Category 1 hurricane in just 24 hours ending 11 a.m. EDT Oct. 8.

Michael continued to intensify right up to landfall, exhibiting eyewall lightning as it pushed to high-end Category 4 status slamming ashore in the Florida Panhandle.

Michael arrived in southwestern Georgia early Wednesday evening as a Category 3 major hurricane, the first hurricane of that strength to track into Georgia since the Georgia Hurricane of 1898, according to Dr. Phil Klotzbach, tropical scientist at Colorado State University.

Hurricane Michael makes landfall in the Florida Panhandle region; the mayor of Apalachicola discusses assessing the damage on Your World.

Until we can be certain of stable public power, water and sewage systems, our patients will be safest in our neighboring hospitals, the hospital said, adding that it would do everything possible to keep its emergency room open.

At least one person in Florida was killed by a fallen tree during Hurricane Michael on Wednesday, according to local officials.

A spokeswoman for the Gadsden County Sheriff's Office told Fox News that the office received a report that an unidentified man in the Panhandle became trapped after a fallen tree ripped through his home's roof.

Inside, Dr. Roake said, the worst situation was in the intensive care unit, on the upper floors of a newer glass tower. The windows there are double paned, but the outer panes started breaking out on Wednesday afternoon.

Hurricane Michael made landfall shortly before 2 p.m. ET northwest of Mexico Beach and just outside Panama City, National Hurricane Center (NHC) Director Ken Graham told Fox News’ Shepard Smith.

A woman checks on her vehicle as Hurricane Michael passes through, after the hotel canopy had just collapsed, in Panama City Beach on Wednesday.

Since then, the storm has pushed inland over the Panhandle, and the eye is currently coursing through southwestern Georgia, according to an 11 p.m. advisory from the NHC.

The hurricane, which made landfall as a Category 4 storm, was downgraded to a Category 1 with maximum sustained winds of 75 mph and is moving northeast at 20 mph, the agency said. "Damaging winds" continued to blow through parts of Florida and Georgia, while flooding remained a threat.

Right now, the main focus is going to be on debris removal so that power line trucks and repair crews can access the areas that are without power, Mr. Deal said at the State Capitol in Atlanta.

"On the forecast track, the core of Michael will move across southwestern and central Georgia tonight, and move through east-central Georgia Thursday morning," the advisory said. "Michael will then move northeastward across the southeastern United States through late Thursday, and then move off the Mid-Atlantic coast by early Friday."

At 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Ms. McCall missed a call from her brother, Jeff McCall, who was trying to ride out Hurricane Michael with his family in Alford, Fla., about 40 miles north of Panama City.

Fox News Chief Meteorologist Rick Reichmuth said Michael was the fourth most powerful hurricane to ever make landfall in the U.S. in terms of wind, which clocked in at 155 mph, and the third most powerful in terms of pressure, at 919 mb.

The photographers Gabriella Angotti-Jones, Scott McIntyre, Johnny Milano and Eric Thayer are on the ground in Florida covering the storm for The New York Times. See their images here.

More than 375,000 people up and down the Gulf Coast were warned to evacuate, and the hurricane's leading edge sent storm surge into neighborhoods as it approached.

• The big problem with this hurricane was the tremendous power, President Trump said on Thursday, adding that weve not seen destruction like that for a long time.

As Michael neared, heavy waves pounded the shoreline in Panama City Beach, which caused a building under construction to collapse.

Now came the job of moving the patients out. Theyre in the process of getting them transported to other hospitals — in Pensacola, wherever they can take them, he said.

In nearby Apalachicola, storm surge sent water pouring into city neighborhoods and covering roadways.

Im just glued to my phone hoping that somebodys post leads me to something that leads me to something that leads me to somebody that has access down there, she said.

The Walton County Sheriff's Office shared a photo on Twitter of a boat getting rocked in the waves and urged extreme caution to residents, warning them "not" to "take any chances" during the "unforgiving" hurricane.

Residents still recovering from the devastating flooding caused by Hurricane Florence in the Carolinas, wearily awaited the winds and driving rain of now-Tropical Storm Michael.

"Michael is upon us, it is time to seek refuge. Once you are sheltered, STAY PUT," Scott tweeted. "Do not try to leave until the storm has passed. Multiple state and federal resources are staged and ready to respond as soon as it is safe.

Bay Medical was one of two hospitals in Panama City — the other being Gulf Coast Regional Medical Center — that was damaged in the storm. Both were evacuating patients.

After the storm made landfall, Scott requested that President Trump issue a Major Disaster Declaration for Florida. Trump on Tuesday approved a pre-landfall emergency declaration.

The governor also tweeted photos of supplies ready to be disbursed to those affected by Hurricane Michael.

The worst of Michaels rain is expected to fall most heavily in a swath between Interstates 85 and 95 through North and South Carolina and into Virginia.

More than 366,000 accounts in Florida were without power as a result of the storm, according to a report tweeted by the state's Division of Emergency Management. Scott wrote that utility company personnel was at the ready and restoring power was "a top priority."

"Utility companies have nearly 19,000 personnel staged to begin power restoration," he tweeted. "Getting power back on is absolutely critical to our recovery and response efforts- this is a top priority."

Dr. Brian Roake, the head of the anesthesiology department, was among those who rode out the hurricane in the hospital. It was like hell, he said.

The National Weather Service (NWS) also urged residents to avoid the temptation to "explore the damage done by #Michael."

• A man died on Wednesday after a tree crashed down on his home in Greensboro, northwest of Tallahassee, the Gadsden County Sheriffs Office said.

"Winds might be calming down and the rain stoopping, but significant danger remains," the tweet said. "Downed power lines can kill."

Diane Farris, 57, and her son joined about 1,100 people crammed into a shelter in Panama City meant for about half as many. Neither she nor her son had any way to communicate because their lone cellphone got wet and quit working, according to the Associated Press.

"I'm worried about my daughter and grandbaby. I don't know where they are. You know, that's hard," she told the AP.

The people in North and South Carolina have been through it, Mr. Long, the FEMA administrator, said. This isnt going to help.

More than 5,000 evacuees sought shelter in Tallahassee, which is about 25 miles from the coast but is covered by live oak and pine trees that can fall and cause power outages even in smaller storms.

I just have to wait to figure out and see where she ends up, Ms. Miller said. I just know they are transporting her somewhere.

Emily Hindle lies on the floor at an evacuation shelter set up at Rutherford High School, in advance of Hurricane Michael. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Video footage taken from a helicopter, and posted on Twitter by the commercial weather forecaster AccuWeather, showed widespread damage.

Tyndall Air Force base, situated on a peninsula just south of Panama City, "took a direct hit from Hurricane Michael" and "sustained extensive damage," a Facebook post from the base said. No injuries were reported.

Gulf Coast Regional Medical Center said in a statement that it was evacuating about 130 patients, starting with the most critically ill.

The home of the 325th Fighter Wing and some 600 military families appeared squarely targeted for the worst of the storm's fury, and leaders declared HURCON 1 status, ordering out all but essential personnel. The base's aircraft, which include F-22 Raptors, were flown hundreds of miles away as a precaution. Forecasters predicted 9 to 14 feet of water at Tyndall. The evacuation order was to continue "until further notice," the base said.

Now, Megan McCall, 30, is trying to reach someone who might be able to check on the family at the home on the edge of Compass Lake.

The strength of Hurricane Michael tore off building roofs, downed trees and powerlines and "caused significant structural damage," the base said, adding that it was immediately clear what condition the runway was in.

• More than 1.1 million homes and businesses were without electricity on Thursday, state agencies and utility companies said.

Evacuations spanned 22 counties from the Panhandle into north-central Florida. But civilians don't have to follow orders, and authorities feared that many people ignored the warnings to get out.

High-rise buildings in Panama City Beach, Florida, built to withstand high winds; Jeff Flock reports from the ground on the conditions.

"We've told those who stayed to have their life jackets on when the storm comes," Tress Dameron, Franklin County emergency management coordinator, told The News Herald in Panama City.

Meanwhile, Trump was briefed on Hurricane Michael as it closed in on the Florida Panhandle, and was warned 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 described storm as a "Gulf Coast hurricane of the worst kind," which he said will be similar in strength to "an EF3 tornado making landfall."

Trump said he spoke with Scott on Tuesday and says the federal government is coordinating with all of the states that could be impacted.

.Hotel employees look at a canopy that just collapsed, as Hurricane Michael passes through in Panama City Beach (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

After lashing the coast of Florida, rainfall up to 12 inches is possible and may cause flash-flooding inland, the NHC said. But unlike Hurricane Florence, Michael will accelerate Wednesday night and Thursday, preventing any long-term flooding from rainfall, according to Fox News Senior Meteorologist Janice Dean.

"The Carolinas will, unfortunately, get more rain on top of the flooding damage they had with Hurricane Florence," she said.

Isolated tornadoes are also possible from North Florida through Georgia and southern South Carolina as the storm continues its path.

The National Weather Service's office on Twitter issued a tornado watch until 2 a.m. ET for areas in both Florida and Georgia.

Fox News Lucas Tomlinson, Nicole Darrah, Lacy Heather, Stephen Sorace and The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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