Even before Hurricane Michael made full landfall - which is the point where the eye of the storm hits land - it was knocking down trees with powerful winds and had caused flooding in the town of Apalachicola and Port St Joe, where more than 1.5 metres of water was reported. In the D.C. area, its effects are a few days off and should be limited.
It has now weakened to a tropical storm over south-central Georgia. The storm had top sustained winds of 60 miles per hour and was moving to the northeast at 20 miles per hour.
"Risky hurricane-force winds will also extend well inland across portions of the Florida Panhandle, southern Georgia, and southeast Alabama as Michael moves inland", the National Hurricane Center said on Wednesday morning. It was the most powerful hurricane to hit the continental U.S.in almost 50 years. Andrew Lamonica, 64, a retired power company worker and lifelong Panama City Beach resident, ignored orders to evacuate ahead of one of the strongest hurricanes ever to hit the United States and waited out the storm in his rented bungalow.
He said the storm would still have hurricane-force winds as it pushed through Florida into Georgia, and tropical storm-force winds when it reaches the Carolinas, which are still reeling from post-Florence flooding.
Based on its internal barometric pressure, Michael was the third most powerful hurricane to hit the US mainland, behind the unnamed Labor Day storm of 1935 and Camille in 1969. Emergency managers say they don't know how many left the area, but there were about 6000 people in 80 shelters in five states, including almost 1200 who are still in shelters following Hurricane Florence. Based on wind speed, it was the fourth-strongest, behind the Labor Day storm (184 miles per hour, or 296 kph), Camille and Andrew in 1992. The roar of the winds, he said, sounded like a jet engine. It was the "worst storm" that part of the state has ever seen, Gov. Rick Scott said.
Meteorologists watched satellite imagery in complete awe as the storm intensified. Palm trees whipped wildly in the winds.
"Going back through records to 1851 we can't find another Cat 4 in this area, so this is unfortunately a historical and incredibly risky and life-threatening situation", he said.
Colorado State University hurricane expert Phil Klotzbach said in an email: "I really fear for what things are going to look like there tomorrow at this time". About 5 p.m., her brother called a friend and said the house was getting cracks on the wall and the sliding glass doors were blowing in and starting to break.
Meteorologists use another measure to evaluate hurricane intensity: central pressure.
While we might not get more storms in a warmer climate, most studies show storms will get stronger and produce more rain.
Scientists have long warned that global warming will make storms more destructive, and some say the evidence for this may already be visible. Michael is now positioned 60 miles south-southwest of Panama City.
Warm water is the energy that fuels hurricanes, and the Gulf water is 4 to 5 degrees warmer than normal.
"I'm just praying for them and, as soon as this passes, we will be out there doing everything we can to rescue everybody..."