Hurricane Michael Strengthens to Category 4 Before Making Landfall

 Alexa Lardieri

HURRICANE MICHAEL HAS been upgraded to a Category 4 hurricane as it barrels toward the Florida panhandle with maximum sustained winds of 145 mph.

According to the National Hurricane Center, Hurricane Michael is about 90 miles southwest of Panama City, Florida. It is a "potentially catastrophic" and "extremely dangerous" storm with life-threatening storm surges, hurricane-force winds and heavy rainfall.

Michael is expected to make landfall over the Florida panhandle on Wednesday and move northeastward across the southeastern United States Wednesday night into Thursday. On Friday, the storm will move off the Mid-Atlantic coast out into the Atlantic Ocean.

Hurricane-force winds will extend 45 miles out from the center of the storm and tropical storm-force winds will extend 185 miles out from the center, the NHC stated. Excessive rainfall of up to 12 inches in parts of the panhandle, Big Bend, southeast Alabama and southwest and central Georgia could lead to life-threatening flash floods.

Storm surges have already started to flood parts of state, coming up past boat ramps and over sea walls.

National Weather Service Tallahassee tweeted that the hurricane is "steadily moving towards the coast. ... Conditions will deteriorate quickly, so stay put and find your safest location possible!"

The NWS is monitoring the area for tornadoes and the NWS Tampa Bay tweeted that a tornado watch had been issued Wednesday morning for parts of Florida and Georgia.

According to CNN, the Category 4 storm is the strongest to hit the panhandle in recorded history and will be only the fourth major hurricane to hit the area since 1950. Additionally, Michael is the strongest hurricane to make landfall over the U.S. since Hurricane Irma in September 2017.

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