The eye of Hurricane Michael touched land near Mexico Beach in Florida’s panhandle on Wednesday afternoon. Despite being told repeatedly to evacuate the area, many people in the area chose not to leave, BBC reports.
They might be regretting that decision now.
Hurricane Michael has killed at least 13 people in Central America. From Florida, the storm will begin to move up the East Coast.
Gov. Rick Scott (R) called for 370,000 panhandle residents to leave the area, warning that Hurricane Michael would cause “unimaginable devastation.” Officials say that many people did not leave the area, however. Those who chose not to go to an evacuation center are now being asked to stay in their homes to avoid putting themselves in danger.
Hurricane Michael made landfall as a Category 4 storm, and was almost strong enough to be a Category 5, according to NBC News. Michael’s winds have been recorded at 155 mph. A hurricane becomes Category 5 at 157 mph winds.
The storm, now a Category 3 hurricane, is headed into Alabama and Georgia. It will be the first Category 3 hurricane to hit Georgia in more than a hundred years, according to a CNN tweet.
Those who stayed behind in Florida are in mortal danger. “If you failed to heed a warning for any reason, your goal should be to elevate as high as you can and get into a facility that you think can withstand the winds at this point and hope for the best…those who stick around to experience storm surge don’t typically live to tell about it, unfortunately,” said Brock Long, a FEMA administrator.
More than 162,000 homes and businesses are without power in Florida, Alabama, and Georgia as of Wednesday afternoon, according to Reuters.
Just after 7 p.m. EST, the first-known Florida death caused by Hurricane Michael was reported by FirstCoast News. Authorities have confirmed that one panhandle resident, a male, was killed by a falling tree that hit his home.
Downtown Panama City proper got hit way harder than Panama City Beach. Not shocked as it was hit by the right eyewall. This is catastrophic damage here. @weathernetwork @StormhunterTWN #HurricaneMichael pic.twitter.com/Y7rUyHE7Wj— Jaclyn Whittal (@jwhittalTWN) October 10, 2018
The storm hit quickly and furiously, and some people did not have time to leave. One Weather Channel crew is reportedly stuck at their base because the storm made driving impossible.
ABC News reports that Hurricane Michael is the strongest storm to hit the U.S. since Hurricane Camille landed in 1969, and the third most powerful storm on record to strike the U.S.
The extent of the damage to Florida is still unknown, but pictures and descriptions being shared by people who are still there are terrifyingly grim. One meteorologist, Ginger Zee, saw an “entire home, a well-built home rolling down the street.”
The storm could bring with it up to 12 inches of rain.