It’s looking a bit less likely that Hurricane Michael will become a Category 5 hurricane, but that’s likely little comfort to people in the Florida Panhandle, who are starting to feel the impact from what’s expected to be the worst storm to ever hit the region.
The 11 a.m. ET update from the National Hurricane Center shows Michael holding at a Category 4 storm with maximum sustained windspeeds of 145 mph. Forecasters say its still possible the storm could gain strength before making landfall, but it’s now just 60 miles south southwest of Panama City.
Meteorologists warn that the storm is still “extremely dangerous” and “life threatening,” and will bring tremendous winds, heavy rain and storm surges of up 14 feet to the Panhandle and Big Bend. The risk of tornadoes also remains a concern.
Authorities in Florida have begun to close roads due to high winds, including the bridge to St. George Island, which is now on its own until the storm passes. Irwin County, Ga. (located about 88 miles from the Florida-Georgia border) has already declared a curfew for Wednesday night and Thursday.
One forecast model from the University of Michigan estimates the storm will result in 1.4 million people losing power throughout the Southeast.
After hitting Florida Wednesday, the storm will move into Georgia, with hurricane force winds still howling early Thursday mornings. Michael is a fast moving storm and will impact South Carolina Thursday afternoon and move into North Carolina Thursday evening. By early Friday morning, it will bring Tropical Storm force winds to Virginia and possibly the Washington D.C. area before heading back out to sea.