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In north Florida, Michael battered the shoreline with sideways rain, powerful gusts and crashing waves, swamping streets and docks, flattening trees, shredding awnings and peeling away shingles.

Hurricane Michael started whipping up large swell in the Florida's Panhandle region.

The National Hurricane Center predicts Michael will stay a powerful and unsafe rainmaker as it moves across the U.S. Southeast and off the Mid-Atlantic coast before heading out to sea by Friday.

Now a tropical storm, Michael is the most powerful storm ever to hit Florida's Panhandle; senior correspondent Rick Leventhal reports from Panama City Beach.

Human-caused greenhouse gases in the atmosphere create an energy imbalance, with more than 90% of remaining heat trapped by the gases going into the oceans, according to the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Association.

As the storm continues on a northeast path, it is expected to hit Georgia and the Carolinas, the latter of which is still recovering from the devastation left in the wake of Hurricane Florence last month.

Without the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico to provide it fuel, forecasters say Michael will be downgraded even further to a tropical storm by Thursday morning.

At least one person was killed, an official in Gadsden County west of the state capital Tallahassee told AFP, giving the first confirmed death from the powerful storm.

The St. Marks River overflows into the city of St. Marks, Fla., Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018.

States of emergency have been declared in all or parts of Florida, Alabama, Georgia and North Carolina.

FEMA head Brock Long acknowledged that early evacuation efforts in the area were slow in comparison to how quickly the hurricane intensified.

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"Upwards of 8- to 12-foot storm surge is expected, so there could be some significant low-lying flooding in coastal areas", said National Weather Liaison Ken Widelski.

Hurricane Michael, which made landfall near Mexico Beach, Florida as a category-4 storm on Wednesday afternoon, has ravaged the Florida Panhandle with gusting winds of up to 155mph (250kph).

Briefing Mr Trump, Brock Long, the U.S. government's disaster chief, said: "This is the most intense hurricane that's struck this area since 1851".

He said thousands of first responders are now working to restore power, conduct medical search and rescue missions, and distribute food and water. The storm still was spinning in the open waters of the Central Atlantic on Wednesday.

Images captured by Associated Press journalists show how Florida residents took shelter while waters were rising ahead of Michael's landfall.

The lower the air pressure, the less air molecules there are.

Though wind speed is the basis for hurricane categories, central pressure is actually a better measure of damage that a hurricane will cause, a study published past year in the journal Nature Communications found.

That is rarefied air: only three storms have hit the U.S.at Category 5: an unnamed storm that devastated the Florida Keys in 1935; Camille, which hit MS in 1969; and Andrew, which plowed across South Florida in 1992. Its sustained winds were just 2 miles per hour (3.2 kph) shy of being an extremely rare Category 5.

Winds could gust 25-50 miles per hour in these areas late Thursday night and early on Friday.

The National Weather Service office in Tallahassee issued a dramatic appeal for people to comply with evacuation orders.


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