Hurricane Michael live WEBCAM: Life threatening storm targets St. Petersburg – WATCH

Hurricane Michael live WEBCAM: \Life threatening\ storm targets St. Petersburg - WATCH
Hurricane Michael downgraded to Category 3; officials warn of life-threatening storm surge
When Hurricane Michael made landfall as a high-end Category 4 storm on the Florida Panhandle Wednesday, buildings along the coast were smashed to pieces, storm-surge flooding lapped at the eaves of beach houses, and an Air Force base sustained extensive damage.

One death has been reported in the Panhandle. A Greensboro man was killed when a tree crashed on his home, Gadsden County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Anglie Hightower told the Associated Press. 

The home of the 325th Fighter Wing and some 600 military families appeared squarely targeted for the worst of the storm's fury, and leaders declared HURCON 1 status, ordering out all but essential personnel. The base's aircraft, which include F-22 Raptors, were flown hundreds of miles away as a precaution. Forecasters predicted 9 to 14 feet of water at Tyndall. The evacuation order was to continue "until further notice," the base said.

From Panama City, through Mexico Beach — where the storm made landfall — and into Apalachicola, houses were swamped or blown apart, roofs were ripped off, boats sank, and trees toppled in the high winds.

Images, video showing Michaels destruction emerge: All the houses are submerged

Tyndall Air Force Base, which sits across the bay from Panama City, posted on its Facebook page that the base sustained extensive damage. A wind gust of 129 mph was measured at the base. No injuries were reported. Base personnel had been ordered to evacuate on Monday. The Facebook post said evacuees should plan on being away for an extended time.

After lashing the coast of Florida, rainfall up to 12 inches is possible and may cause flash-flooding inland, the NHC said. But unlike Hurricane Florence, Michael will accelerate Wednesday night and Thursday, preventing any long-term flooding from rainfall, according to Fox News Senior Meteorologist Janice Dean.

WATCH: Jeff Flock in Panama City Beach, FL Amid Powerful Wind Gusts From Hurricane Michael

The damage extended far inland as well. In Marianna, about 55 miles from Panama City, social media posts showed buildings with collapsed walls and torn off roofs. The police department lost its roof, too. Michael arrived in the city with gusts up to 102 mph.

The hurricane, which made landfall as a Category 4 storm, was downgraded to a Category 1 with maximum sustained winds of 75 mph and is moving northeast at 20 mph, the agency said. "Damaging winds" continued to blow through parts of Florida and Georgia, while flooding remained a threat.

Officials in Tallahassee, the state capital, tweeted that initial assessments of storm damage were showing lots of downed power lines, power poles, and trees.

More than 366,000 accounts in Florida were without power as a result of the storm, according to a report tweeted by the state's Division of Emergency Management. Scott wrote that utility company personnel was at the ready and restoring power was "a top priority."

Video: Hurricane Michael makes landfall with 155 mph winds

Brunt of storms effect in south Georgia will be felt overnight

As of 10:30 p.m. EDT, more than 331,000 homes and businesses were without power statewide, most of which were in the areas impacted by the storm, according to The total number of customers without power in Florida, Alabama, and Georgia topped 550,000. 

Images from Mexico Beach showed widespread devastation with homes reduced to kindling and roofs lying in the middle of U.S. 98. Storm surge lapped at roof eaves.

MIAMI  — Floridas Panhandle is littered with evidence that Hurricane Michael is one of the most powerful storms ever to hit the mainland United States. Roofs and awnings are peeled from buildings, pieces of homes are scattered amid snapped trees and downed power lines, chunks of beaches are washed away. Michael thrashed Georgia as a hurricane and eventually weakened to a tropical storm early Thursday as it moved toward the Carolinas, soaking areas that got swamped last month by Hurricane Florence.

Patricia Mulligan was in a condo on Mexico Beach when Michael slammed into the town. You cant drive a car anywhere, you cant do anything because its littered with houses, pieces of houses, Mulligan told the New York Times. She said her brother's condo was destroyed as were other units nearby. Theyre not there. Its gone, she said.

Michael is shaking up the upcoming election in the battleground state of Florida. The hurricane has given national exposure to Republican Gov. Rick Scott, who is trying to unseat Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum , the Democrat running against Republican Ron DeSantis. The publicity could backfire if recovery is delayed ahead of Election Day. President Donald Trump has endorsed Scott and DeSantis.

Mark Suddath wrote, "Walking thru Mexico Beach to receive my GoPro cam and Im telling you, its DEVASTATED. Truly devastated. Some buildings completely swept clean – only slabs."

Many flights were canceled in the hurricane zone, and Amtrak changed some train schedules to protect passengers and employees. Silver Star trains from New York to Miami were only running from Miami to Jacksonville. The Palmetto between New York and Savannah, Georgia, is only running between New York and Washington beginning Thursday.

Earlier he had written, "Drove from Panama City almost to Mexico Beach and I can tell you this is the worst damage from wind that I have ever seen! Absolutely catastrophic!"

Michael isnt alone. The National Hurricane Center says Hurricane Leslie and Tropical Storm Nadine are no threat to land over the open Atlantic Ocean, but Tropical Storm Sergio in the Pacific is blowing toward the Baja California Peninsula on a path across Mexico to the southern U.S. Plains and the Ozarks by the weekend.

Josh Morgerman wrote, "It's hard to convey in words the scale of the catastrophe in Panama City. The whole city looks like a nuke was dropped on it. I'm literally shocked at the scale of the destruction."

A month after Hurricane Florences epic deluge, South Carolina officials are more concerned about tornadoes than flooding from Michael. The National Weather Service issued multiple tornado warnings in Georgia as Hurricane Michael pushed through the state, and local media report three of them may have touched down.

Fast, furious: How Michael grew into a 155 mph monster

Tweets from a resident of Panama City showed a bank where the windows were blown out and two middle schools had major roof damage. Drone video showed the roof peeled back from the gymnasium at Jinks Middle School. 

Meteorologists use central pressure readings to gauge a hurricanes strength — the lower the pressure, the stronger the storm. Michael was more intense at landfall than hurricanes Andrew, Katrina and Maria. Only the 1935 Labor Day hurricane in the Florida Keys and Hurricane Camille in 1969 were stronger.

Out-of-town crews in Tallahassee ready to restore power after Hurricane Michael

Vance Beu, 29, was staying with his mother at her Panama City apartment when a pine tree stabbed through the roof. Beu told AP the roar of the storm sounded like a jet engine as the winds accelerated. 

Veterinarian Technician Maria Cuchens cares for animals during #HurricaneMichael. She and others are at the shelter making sure our furry friends are taken care of. #AdoptDontShop @NWSTallahassee @weatherchannel @weartv @WJHG_TV @nwfdailynews

Video: Michael moving through Georgia after devastating Florida Panhandle

"It was terrifying, honestly. There was a lot of noise. We thought the windows were going to break at any time. We had the inside windows kind of barricaded in with mattresses," Beu said.

VIDEO: Serious storm surge in Navarre Beach, approx. 100 miles west of where #HurricaneMichael just made landfall in the Mexico Beach area. This video is from Parker Destin, inside his new Dewey Destins restaurant on the beach.

Video: Vacationers, residents fleeing Florida ahead of Michael

Kaylee O'Brien was crying as she sorted through the remains of the apartment she shared with three roommates. Four pine trees had crashed through the roof of her apartment, nearly hitting two people. 

The walls collapsed at the Pawaday Inn, a pet grooming and boarding business in Panama City. A Miami Herald reporter tweeted that the dogs survived, but a cat drowned after being trapped. 

Zee, who was in the eye wall of the storm for more than an hour, described an “incredible storm surge.” Conditions were so bad that Zee and her team lost the ability to broadcast.

In Panama City Beach, WJHG-TV employees were told they could evacuate the station if they felt unsafe, but a few remained inside the building, according to reporter Danielle Ellis. The station lost power a few hours later.

Richard Fausset, and Atlanta-based reporter for The New York Times, posted a photo of a group of people huddling in a storage closet at his hotel in Panama City.

The Atlantic Politics & Policy Daily: Hurricane Michael is Upon Us

The Panama City News Herald lost power and stayed in operation using a backup generator, but did not have internet access at the office, the Associated Press reported.

Delta cancels 80 flights due to Hurricane Michael, Hartsfield-Jackson monitoring storm

Bay Medical Sacred Heart in Panama City tweeted that hospital "sustained damage including windows blown out, cracking of an exterior wall, and roof damage." The tweet said emergency generators were working, and patients had been moved to safer areas.

Alpharetta, GA – For our customers in the Florida Panhandle including coastal Alabama that will feel the effects of Hurricane Michael, Verizon Wireless is saying Weve Got Your Back. From October 10 through October 14, Verizon is providing free calling, texting and data to its postpaid and prepaid customers who reside in the areas of the Florida Panhandle including coastal Alabama that are in the direct path of the storm. We will closely monitor the storms path and impact and will make additions and adjustments as needed, and will communicate those details as those decisions are made.

In Port St. Joe, about 12 miles southeast of Mexico Beach, a church lost its steeple and much of its roof, parts of buildings were torn away, and pine trees snapped like matchsticks. 

“This is one way we can help residents preparing for Hurricane Michaels landfall,” said Russ Preite, president, Southeast Market for Verizon Wireless. We urge all those in the storms path to get prepared and stay safe.

Second Michael-related fatality reported, child killed in Georgia

Port St. Joe's Mayor Bo Patterson remained in his home seven blocks from the beach during the storm. "It feels like you don't know when the next tree is going to fall on top of you because it's blowing so ferociously," he told Reuters by telephone. "It's very, very scary. We have trees being uprooted, heavy, heavy rain."

Verizon values the safety and security of all residents in the impacted communities, including the companys employees. Before visiting, please contact your local store as store hours may vary depending on local impact.

Further east, Apalachicola saw a lot of damage too. Sally Crown, who rode out the storm in her house, ventured out after the storm had passed.

Learn more about the Verizon offer for its postpaid and prepaid customers who reside in the areas of the Florida Panhandle including coastal Alabama that are in the direct path of the storm.

Famous for staying open during natural disasters, Waffle House closes 21 restaurants

"It's absolutely horrendous. Catastrophic," Crown told AP. "There's flooding. Boats on the highway. A house on the highway. Houses that have been there forever are just shattered."

Additionally, as part of Verizons ongoing commitment to those on the front lines of public safety, speed caps restrictions have been lifted for first responders in Alabama and Florida.

"There are so many downed power lines and trees that it's almost impossible to get through the city," Apalachicola Mayor Van Johnson said.

The Wakulla County Sheriff's Office said parts of the county, which sits on the coast south of Tallahassee, had seen storm surge of 9 feet. The winds were dying down and crews were beginning to access the damage.

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Hours before landfall, reports of damage and flooding were relayed from the coast. Residents who refused to evacuate were cut off when bridges were closed, including along St. George Island, where some called for help Wednesday morning but were told crews would not be able to reach them, a National Weather Service storm report said.

Wednesday morning, Florida Gov. Rick Scott shared dire advice: "The time to evacuate has come and gone … SEEK REFUGE IMMEDIATELY."

When Hurricane Michael made landfall as a powerful Category 4 storm on Wednesday, it passed directly through Mexico Beach, Florida. 

"Unfortunately, Hurricane Michael has become a hurricane of the worst kind," FEMA Administrator Brock Long told reporters.

As the winds picked up, the video showed boats on their lifts shaking in the wind, and pieces of nearby homes floating in the water.

The Florida Highway Patrol said it pulled its troopers away from coastal areas because it was too dangerous to keep them in those areas.

"We have done everything we can as far as getting the word out," said Franklin County Sheriff A.J. Smith told the AP. "Hopefully more people will leave."

"This is super bad," she wrote. "A whole house is gone and is floating in front of our place."

HURRICANE MICHAEL: Category 4 has never made landfall on Florida Panhandle | WSB-TV

More than 375,000 people along the Gulf Coast in 22 counties were ordered or urged to evacuate, officials said.

Images she later posted showed foggy shots of debris everywhere in the water. The situation was dire.

All airports along the Florida Panhandle closed throughout the storm, and flights were canceled. Tallahassee International Airport tweeted late Wednesday that the airfield had reopened but priority was being given to relief flights. Commercial flights were set to resume midday Thursday, the airport said.

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In Bay County, first responders were no longer able to respond to emergencies as of Wednesday morning, but the Panama City Fire Department would continue responding to life-threatening emergency calls that came from within the city limits, the county said in a tweet.

"Theres no way to put a silver lining on this," said Jim Cantore, storm tracker for The Weather Channel, Wednesday morning while reporting live on Panama City Beach.

On Wednesday, President Donald Trump declared a state of emergency in Florida to free up as many resources as possible for storm and emergency response.

Rescue teams and utility trucks descended on the region by the hundreds from all over the country as they prepared to help with the aftermath.

"We have a pit in our stomachs, too," National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham said during a Wednesday morning interview on The Weather Channel.

Evacuation orders were expanded for additional areas in the path of the storm on Tuesday. Mandatory evacuations were ordered for Okaloosa Island and Holiday Isle Tuesday afternoon, and voluntary evacuations were in place for residents in flood-prone areas of Pasco County.

Ground zero: See the damage Hurricane Michael inflicted on Mexico Beach

"If you decide to stay in your home and a tree falls on your house or the storm surge catches you and youre now calling for help, theres no one that can respond to help you," warned Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan during a news conference Monday. "Thats the criticality of following directions."

Scott said more than 3,500 Florida National Guard members were activated for storm response. He added that the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission was ready to deploy and the Department of Transportation was monitoring the situation.

All bridges leading to and from coastal islands were closed Wednesday morning. With road closures expected to be a fluid situation, officials urged residents to follow updates on the Department of Transportation's Twitter page.

"This is the worst storm that the Florida Panhandle has seen in more than 100 years," said Scott.

Florida State University, Florida A&M University and Tallahassee Community College all announced that campuses would be closed Tuesday through Friday. FSU opened the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center as a shelter for students and faculty.

Leon County Schools posted a tweet Monday saying all schools would be closed through the rest of the week. Bay District Schools will be closed Tuesday and Wednesday, the Panama City News Herald reported.

Posted in St. Petersburg