Hurricane Michael weakened to a Category 1 storm late Wednesday as it moved across south-central Georgia in the United States with maximum sustained winds of about 75 mph, reported Business Insider. Hours earlier, it made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane near Mexico Beach, Florida.
Storm flooding leveled off along the Gulf Coast as of 11pm Eastern time, the National Hurricane Center said.
Officials reported at least one storm-related fatality, a man in Greensboro, Florida, was killed when a tree fell on top of his home, a spokesperson for the Gadsden County sheriff said.
Hundreds of thousands of houses were without power as of 6pm Eastern time. The US Energy Information Administration said about 388,000 customers in Florida, 46,000 customers in Georgia, and 45,000 customers in Alabama were in the dark as the storm moved inland.
Governor Kay Ivey of Alabama issued a state-wide state of emergency on Monday “in anticipation of wide-spread power outages, wind damage, and debris produced by high winds and heavy rain associated with Hurricane Michael.”
Governor Nathan Deal of Georgia issued an emergency declaration for 92 counties in the southern part of that state. “The emergency declaration is effective for seven days and makes all state resources available to local governments and entities within the impacted area of the hurricane,” his office said.
Michael is likely to dump heavy rain over Florida, Alabama, Virginia, Georgia, and the Carolinas. Some of those areas are still working to recover from Hurricane Florence.
The National Hurricane Center forecasted that a few areas could see up to a foot of rain.
The storm had picked up steam as it sped across the Gulf of Mexico toward the Florida Panhandle. When its eye hit Florida’s Gulf Coast on Wednesday afternoon, the storm had sustained winds of 155 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center, putting it just shy of a Category 5 hurricane.
Michael’s minimum central pressure — a key measure of hurricane strength — was measured at 919 millibars when it made landfall. That makes Michael the third-strongest hurricane to ever hit the US and the strongest in nearly 50 years.
Michael was a monster storm by wind speed around the time it made landfall. It had sustained winds of 155 mph, meaning it wasn’t from a Category 5 storm — a Category 4 hurricane has sustained winds of up to 156 mph, and Category 5 is 157 mph and above.
There has been only one storm with higher sustained wind speeds this far north in the Gulf of Mexico: Hurricane Camille in 1969.