The 3rd-strongest storm in the history of US has hit north-west Florida, flooding beach towns and snapping trees.
Hurricane Michael made its landfall on Wednesday afternoon. Rescue services are waiting for daylight to assess the full impact. It has been recorded as a category four storm with 155mph (250km/h) winds.
Falling debris claimed the life of 2 people including a child.
“The window to evacuate has come to a close,” Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator Brock Long said.
“I’ve had to take antacids I’m so sick to my stomach today because of this impending catastrophe,” National Hurricane Center scientist Eric Blake tweeted as the storm drawing energy from the Gulf’s unusually warm, 84-degree water grew scarier.
Meteorologists watched satellite imagery in complete awe as the storm intensified.
“We are in new territory,” National Hurricane Center Meteorologist Dennis Feltgen wrote on Facebook. “The historical record, going back to 1851, finds no Category 4 hurricane ever hitting the Florida panhandle.”
Colorado State University hurricane expert Phil Klotzbach said in an email: “I really fear what things are going to look like there tomorrow at this time.”