JU closes due to Hurricane Michael

Hurricane Michael to hit Florida, but will there be any Maine impact?

The storm will be the strongest to hit the U.S. mainland so far this year, and could be the most devastating the Panhandle region has seen in decades, reports the New York Times.

A historic Hurricane Michael made landfall Wednesday near Mexico Beach, pulverizing homes, snapping trees and sending debris flying.

Hurricane Michael remains at a Category 4 and continues to intensify as it makes landfall near Mexico Beach Florida, according to the National Hurricane Center.

More than 120,000 people have been advised to evacuate some Florida Panhandle cities.

More than 375,000 Florida residents were under evacuation orders.

At 5 a.m., an Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter crew reported top sustained winds up to near 140 miles per hour (225 kph) with higher gusts.

The threat of hurricane force wind gusts would end by 5 p.m., the Weather Service said, and any storm related activity was expected to diminish by 8 p.m. "We thought the windows were going to break at any time", Beu said. "We're telling people this isn't over with".

According to a 6 p.m. advisory, the storm was located 20 miles (32 kilometers) west-northwest of Bainbridge, Georgia, and 50 miles (80 kilometers) southwest of Albany, Georgia.

Forecasters say Michael should re-emerge over the Atlantic Ocean on Friday and regain some strength as it moves away from the USA coast. Tornadoes could spawn in the Southeast Wednesday into Thursday, forecasters said.

"The historical record, going back to 1851, finds no Category 4 hurricane ever hitting the Florida panhandle".

"We still can not rule out hurricane force wind gusts in coastal Okaloosa, but it's beginning to look less likely", a Weather Service power point presentation shown at the briefing said.

Hurricane Michael weakened to a tropical storm Thursday with 50 miles per hour winds as it moved across Georgia, the National Hurricane Center said.

Even before landfall, the hurricane disrupted energy operations in the Gulf, cutting crude oil production by more than 40 percent and natural gas output by almost one-third as offshore platforms were evacuated before the storm hit.

"It feels like you don't know when the next tree is going to fall on top of you because its blowing so ferociously", he said by telephone.

But police weren't being pushy about enforcing the order, and Thomas figured he, his wife and their puppy will be OK since they live in a second-floor apartment.

"This happened so quickly, we weren't exactly prepared", he said. "The windows are blown out".

However, the Campaign to Fight Toxic Prisons, an advocacy group, claims at least 15 prisons in mandatory evacuation zones have not been evacuated, despite an early morning report by the National Hurricane Center that referred to the storm as "potentially catastrophic". So that means we have a need for more blood donations.

Storm surge, not wind, is what the region should monitor the closest. While glad to have a safe place to ride out the storm, she wasn't happy that her home county couldn't provide shelter. The Pentagon said it had readied thousands of forces, including high-water vehicles and helicopters, to come to residents' aid if needed. Forecasters said Michael could be near a very unsafe Category 4 by landfall, with further strengthening expected overnibght.

Governor Scott put a moratorium on all bridge tolls to make evacuating a bit more budget-friendly.

In Florida, 54 shelters are open with a population of almost 6,700 people.

Kieserman told reporters that he wouldn't be surprised more than 20,000 people were in shelters by Thursday or Friday.

Sheriff A.J. Smith in Franklin County, near the vulnerable coast, sent his deputies door to door urging people to evacuate.

The bayfront city of Apalachicola, Florida's oyster capital, suffered severe flooding and property damage along aptly named Water Street, home to several restaurants.

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