By 8 a.m. Tuesday, top winds had reached 100 miles per hour (155 kph), and it was forecast to strengthen more, with winds topping 111 miles per hour (179 kph), capable of causing devastating damage.
Rick Reichmuth, Fox News' chief meteorologist said Michael was the fourth most powerful storm to ever make landfall in the U.S.in terms of wind, and the third most powerful in terms of pressure, at 919 mb.
Authorities said at least two people have died, a man killed by a tree falling on a Panhandle home and according to WMAZ-TV, an 11-year-old girl was also killed by a tree falling on a home in southwest Georgia.
Citing data from aircraft that flew in the storm, the hurricane center says Michael is becoming better organized and symmetrical as it moves north.
A monstrous storm that sprang from nowhere is now threatening the Florida Panhandle. It forced more than 375,000 people up and down the Gulf Coast to evacuate as it gained strength quickly while crossing the eastern Gulf of Mexico toward north Florida. The Carolinas are still reeling from severe flooding in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence less than a month ago.
Joanne Palazzi, 77, told the paper it was going to be her first time riding out a storm in her mobile home.
A hurricane warning was in place from the Okaloosa/Walton county line to the Suwannee River and a tropical storm warning was in effect for north of Fernandina Beach, Fla., to Duck, N.C., and Pamlico and Albemarle sounds. Forecasters are also predicting the possibility of spinoff tornadoes.
With the hurricane still pounding the state hours after it came ashore, and conditions too unsafe in places for search-and-rescue teams to go out, there were no further reports on deaths or injuries by nightfall. The hurricane is forecast to hit the Florida Panhandle at a possible Category 4 storm.
Mark Wallheiser via Getty Images People line up for gasoline outside Tallahassee, Florida, on Monday as Hurricane Michael bears down on the northern Gulf coast. Cedar Key to Chassahowitzka could see storm surge topping out between 4 feet to 6 feet. Bill Nelson, said a "wall of water" could cause major destruction along the Panhandle.
"If you and your family made it through the storm safely, the worst thing you could do now is act foolishly", he said.
In the small Panhandle city of Apalachicola, Mayor Van Johnson Sr. said the 2,300 residents were frantically preparing for what could be a strike unlike any seen there in decades.
Even before landfall, the hurricane disrupted energy operations in the Gulf, cutting crude oil production by more than 40 percent and natural gas output by almost a third as offshore platforms were evacuated ahead of the storm's arrival. The views expressed therein are not necessarily those of stlucianewsonline.com, its sponsors or advertisers.
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