Watch Hurricane Michael make landfall on Florida webcams

Satellite view of Hurricane over the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico

Satellite view of Hurricane over the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico

Michael began dashing homes into pieces and flooding neighborhoods shortly after crossing near Mexico Beach as a Category 4 storm.

Florida officials said Michael, packing winds of 250km/h (155mph), was the most powerful storm to hit the state's northern Panhandle area in more than a century.

Hurricane warnings are in effect for the Florida's panhandle and Big Bend regions, along with parts of southeastern Alabama and southern Georgia, affecting about 3.7 million people, per CNN.

Strong winds and rain did hit in Columbia County, but some people living in Lake City told News4Jax they feel like they lucked out, considering the damage from Michael could have been worse.

"That's one scary-looking storm", NASA astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor said in an audio feed from the station shortly before the storm hit land. "We thought the windows were going to break at any time", Beu said.

The only other hurricane that landed with comparable force this late in the year was Hurricane Hazel in 1954, but Michael was much stronger when it came ashore, Mr. Henson said.

As of around 8pm, Michael was about 20 miles southwest of Albany, Georgia, with winds of 100 mph, becoming a category 1 storm.

Warmer water acts as fuel for a hurricane, helping it develop into a more destructive, windier storm.

Diane Farris, 57, and her son walked to a high school-turned-shelter near their home in Panama City to find about 1,100 people crammed into a space meant for about half as many. "I know that there's a lot of bad stuff that happened out there on the Panhandle, but I think that we were very fortunate here", Lake City resident Tyler Flanagan said.

President Donald Trump has been in touch with state governors and said a federal emergency team is standing by and ready to help with storm recovery.

The National Weather Service office in Tallahassee issued a dramatic appeal for people to comply with evacuation orders. Only Hurricane Camille on the Mississippi Gulf Coast in 1969 and the so-called Labor Day hurricane of 1935 in the Florida Keys were more intense. "Do not risk your life, leave NOW if you were told to do so", it said.

"Where homes were, they are not", Ginger Zee, ABC's chief meteorologist, said in a video posted on Twitter.

Severe flooding, structural building damage, uprooted trees and downed power lines appeared widespread in coastal areas near where the storm made landfall.

Previous year saw a string of catastrophic storms batter the western Atlantic - including Irma, Maria and Harvey, which caused a record-equaling $125 billion in damage when it flooded the Houston metropolitan area. The planet has warmed significantly over the past several decades, causing changes in the environment. Predating modern meteorological technology, the formation point and exact wind strengths of the hurricane are unknown.

In the case of Michael the damage will be mainly from wind rather than rain.

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