Monster Hurricane Michael Ravages Florida Panhandle

An unidentified person takes pictures of the surf and fishing pier on Okaloosa Island in Fort Walton Beach, Fla., on Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018, as Hurricane Michael approaches the Florida Gulf Coast. [Devon Ravine/Northwest Florida Daily News via AP)
(CN) – Hurricane Michael made landfall near Mexico Beach on the Florida panhandle Wednesday afternoon packing winds of 155 mph winds – the first Category 4 storm to hit the area in recorded history.

Hours before the arrival of the hurricane, Governor Rick Scott told residents of area that the time to try to evacuate had passed, and that it was now time to shelter in place until the emergency was over.

In its last update before landfall, the National Hurricane Center said the minimum pressure inside the eye of the storm is down to 923 millibars and was continuing to drop, suggesting the hurricane was strengthening all the way in to shore.

Forecasters said a 14-foot storm surge was possible in some coastal areas as the hurricane comes ashore.

On Wednesday moring, Governor Scott said the impact of Hurricane Michael will be “horrible,” calling it “the worst storm to hit the Panhandle in a century.”

He also said “scared to death” that people in places such as St. George Island along the state’s coast had ignored evacuation orders.

The governor said state authorities are now focusing on the recovery effort once the fast-moving storm blows through. He has activated up 3,500 members of the Florida National Guard and says thousands of utility workers are on stand-by.

The governors of Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina were also bracing for impacts from the hurricane on Wednesday declared states of emergency earlier today. Michael entered South Georgia as a Category 3 hurricane, the strongest the region has ever seen.

The St. Marks River overflows into the city of St. Marks, Fla., ahead of Hurricane Michael, Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018. The hurricane center says Michael will be the first Category 4 hurricane to make landfall on the Florida Panhandle. (AP Photo/Brendan Farrington)

The forecast for the Carolinas is predicting torrential rain, wind gusts of 50 miles per hour or more and possible tornadoes through Friday. Much of that rain is expected to fall in areas in both Carolinas that are still saturated from Hurricane Florence, which passed over the region last month.

In South Carolina, officials were preparing for the forced closure of state and federal offices on Thursday, including many court. Charleston County has already announced courts and other government offices will be closed there.

South Alabama is another inland area that won’t be spared. Alabama’s Geneva County has announced a curfew beginning at 8 p.m. Wednesday, and the local emergency management agency has urged people to voluntarily evacuate from mobile homes and other places that could be unstable in the storm’s high winds.

Erika Williams contributed to this report.

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