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

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

Hurricane Michael has intensified as it barrelled towards the Florida coast, becoming a category 3 major storm as the governor of the southern U.S. state warned residents to prepare immediately for a "monstrous" hit.

Michael roared towards the Florida panhandle as a Category 4 hurricane this morning, hours before it was projected to make landfall and with long-range forecasts predicting its remnants will eventually pass south of Nova Scotia.

More than 2.1 million residents of at least 20 Florida counties were under mandatory or voluntary evacuation orders.

Looking ahead to the aftermath of the storm and the likely downed trees and utility lines, Graham said, "You have to stay away from those power lines".

The hurricane struck the Florida Keys as a Category 5, the highest ranking possible.

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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.

There are several ways to measure a hurricane's strength.

Michael was forecast to have the power to uproot trees, block roads and knock out power for days when it hits Florida. All the way up to the Carolinas, destructive flooding from the storm's rains is expected. Michael was heading north-northeast at 14 miles per hour (22 kph) with maximum sustained winds of 155 miles per hour (250 kph), the hurricane center said.

High winds and heavy rains lashed the coast.

Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 45 miles from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 175 miles.

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Forecasters at the National Weather Service said Tuesday that Hurricane Michael could hit parts of SC harder than Hurricane Florence in some ways. The most recognizable measurement, the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, rates hurricanes from 1-5 based on their sustained wind speeds.

Michael also could dump up to a foot (30 centimeters) of rain over some Panhandle communities before it sweeps over Alabama, Georgia, the Carolinas and Virginia Wednesday and Thursday.

The NHC predicts Michael's center will move inland over the Florida Panhandle or Big Bend area before moving northeast across the southeastern U.S. Wednesday night and Thursday. Trump tweeted. State officials also issued disaster declarations in Alabama and Georgia, both of which are also expected to feel the impact from the storm.

Michael's center is approximately 90 miles southwest of Panama City, Florida.

Because Michael had not been expected to intensify as it did, thousands of coastal residents chose to ride it out at home, said Air Force Gen. Terrence O'Shaughnessy, commander of North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command.

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The brute quickly sprang from a weekend tropical depression, becoming a furious Category 4 by early Wednesday, up from a Category 2 less than a day earlier. Rainfall may exceed 6 inches in some areas.