Hurricane Michael leaves power outages, flooding in its wake as it nears Macon

Category 4 Hurricane Michael has officially made landfall on the Florida Panhandle, slamming the coast with 155 mph winds.

Hurricane Michael has officially entered Georgia.

The eye of the storm crossed into southwest Georgia about 5:45 p.m., Channel 2 Action News’ radar showed. It became the first major hurricane to enter Georgia since 1898, according to Channel 2 meteorologist Brad Nitz.

Michael weakened to a Category 1 storm by 8 p.m., with sustained wind speeds of 90 mph, the National Hurricane Center reported. The winds weakened to 75 mph by 11 p.m.

About 11 p.m., the hurricane was reported about 45 miles southwest of Macon.

It made landfall as a Category 4 around 1:40 p.m. on the Florida Panhandle, the National Hurricane Center said. It immediately pummeled the region with strong winds and potentially catastrophic storm surges.

As a Category 4, Michael was the strongest storm to ever hit the Florida Panhandle since reliable record-keeping began, according to Channel 2.

As it moved inland, Hurricane Michael had sustained winds of 125 mph and was moving north-northeast at 16 mph, the National Hurricane Center reported at 5 p.m.

At 7 p.m., the storm had maximum sustained winds of 100 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Also, airports in Albany, Bainbridge and Dothan, Ala., measured Michael’s wind speeds in the 60s.

[11:15 p.m.]: Carroll, Clayton, Cobb, Fulton, Haralson, Paulding and Polk counties are under flood warnings until 2 a.m. Thursday, the NWS said.

[10:56 p.m.]: A flood warning has been issued for Coweta, Fayette, Harris, Heard, Pike, Spalding, Talbot, Troup and Upson counties until 2 a.m. Thursday, according to the National Weather Service.

[10:28 p.m.]: Georgia Power reports over 101,000 people are without power, and Georgia EMC reports over 74,000 customers are affected, totaling over 175,000 people statewide.

[9:11 p.m.] Americus, Cordele and Vienna are under flash-flood warnings until 3 a.m. Thursday, the National Weather Service said.

[8:47 p.m.] More than 125,000 people in Georgia were without power. That's an increase of about 35,000 people since 7 p.m. Georgia Power reported about 69,800 people affected and Georgia EMC about 56,900.

[7:40 p.m.]: The Associated Press reported that a man in the Florida Panhandle was killed by a falling tree, the first reported death in the wake of the hurricane. Authorities said they received a call about 6 p.m. saying a tree had crashed through the roof of the man's Greensboro home and trapped him. His identity was not released.

[7:15 p.m.]: The number of Georgians without power rose sharply. About 46,800 Georgia Power customers had no power about 7 p.m. That was up from 16,000 about 4:30 p.m. About 45,000 EMC customers were without power as of 7:30 p.m.

The hurricane also sparked transformer explosions and knocked out power to more than 190,000 homes and businesses in Panama City, Fla.

[6:56 p.m.]: At least 17,000 residents in southwest Georgia were without power, an Albany television website reported.

[6:40 p.m.]: A tornado warning was issued for Fulton, Cobb and Douglas counties by the National Weather Service. It was canceled at 7 p.m.

[6:34 p.m.]: President Donald Trump is likely to visit the storm-ravaged areas of Florida and Georgia early next week, White House officials told reporters aboard Air Force One.

[6:15 p.m.]: Devastating damage has been reported in Mexico Beach, Fla., where the storm made landfall.

[4:31 p.m.]: Thousands of Georgians have lost power as a result of Hurricane Michael. More than 16,000 Georgia Power customers, and about 14,000 Georgia electric membership cooperative costumers, have lost power, the companies said.

[3:55 p.m.]: Water levels along the Florida coast have risen at alarming rates, the NOAA's Ocean Service reported. The tide in Apalachicola reached 7.72 feet above high tide, preliminary measurements show, breaking a record set during Hurricane Dennis in 2005.

Some locations in Florida reported wind gusts of more than 115 mph, and Donalsonville, Ga., had gusts at 67 mph, according to the Hurricane Center.

Meanwhile, videos showed debris and flooding overwhelm roads and neighborhoods on the panhandle Tuesday afternoon.

[2:47 p.m.]: More than 40 counties in Middle and South Georgia are now under a hurricane warning. A tornado watch is also in effect until 2 a.m. for several counties in the south metro Atlanta area, including Henry, Rockdale, Barrow, Butts and Walton counties.

[2:15 p.m.]: Reports of damage began to emerge Wednesday afternoon as Hurricane Michael made landfall and battered the Florida Panhandle. Extremely heavy winds and rainfall toppled trees as debris covered some cars in Panama City Beach, video showed.

[12:32 p.m.]: The new counties under a state of emergency are Lamar, Monroe, Butts, Jasper, Morgan, Putnam, Greene, Oconee, Clarke, Oglethorpe, Elbert, Wilkes, Lincoln, Columbia, McDuffie, and Taliaferro.

[12:01 p.m.]: Gov. Nathan Deal added 16 Georgia counties to the state of emergency declaration, he said at a news conference. A total of 108 of Georgia's 159 counties are now covered by the emergency declaration.

"We are prepared for search and rescue efforts in the event of flooding," Deal said. “We know there’s still going to be a considerable amount of damage.”

[ORIGINAL STORY:] The Hurricane Center has classified Hurricane Michael as an "extremely dangerous" hurricane and "a life-threatening event" for parts of the Gulf Coast.

“Life-threatening storm surge ... hurricane force winds ... and heavy rainfall imminent,” the Hurricane Center said in the 11 a.m. advisory.

“Water levels continue to rise quickly along the coast of the Florida Panhandle,” the Hurricane Center said. A picture tweeted by the National Weather Service’s Tallahassee office Wednesday morning showed storm surge affecting a building near Panacea, a coastal city south of Tallahassee.

RELATED: Here's what's closed in Georgia ahead of Hurricane Michael

“Can't stress this enough: These impacts from the surge is only the beginning,” the Weather Service said. “It's going to get higher!”

By the time Michael makes its way into Georgia, it will still be “a very strong hurricane,” Channel 2 meteorologist Karen Minton said.

Communities in South Georgia are doing what they can to brace for hurricane-force winds in the brunt of the storm.

READ MORE: SW Georgia awaits potentially 'life-threatening' hurricane

A tropical storm warning was expanded to include seven North Georgia counties, according to Channel 2. Upson, Lamar, Jasper, Putnam, Morgan, Greene and Oglethorpe counties could experience winds of 40-50 mph.

“We're going to see some heavy rain on the east side and south side of our viewing area,” Minton said. “And you could have as much as 3- to 5-, maybe some 6- to 7-inch amounts of rain, thus the need for the flash flood watch that goes through today and early (Thursday).”

Gov. Nathan Deal activated 1,500 Georgia Guardsmen to be placed on standby and deployed as needed to areas affected by the storm.

RELATED: What is a state of emergency? Georgia braces for Hurricane Michael

Gov. Nathan Deal expanded the state of emergency to include 16 more counties.

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“The state is mobilizing all available resources to ensure public safety ahead of Hurricane Michael,” Deal said in a statement Tuesday. “In light of the storm’s forecasted track, I encourage Georgians in the affected counties to be prepared and remain vigilant.”

RELATED: The time to prepare for Hurricane Michael is right now

Michael was stronger than Hurricane Florence was when it made landfall in North Carolina last month, according to the Hurricane Center. Michael was the first Category 4 hurricane to hit the Florida Panhandle since records began in 1851.

“Major hurricane landfall is rare,” Nitz said. “I did some research and was surprised to find that since 1851 there have been only six major hurricanes to make landfall within 75 miles of Panama City Beach. All were Category 3. Four of these were in the 1800s.”

According to The Associated Press, about 375,000 people along the Gulf Coast were urged or ordered to evacuate. Evacuation orders spanned 22 counties from the Florida Panhandle into north central Florida, the AP reported.

RELATED: Georgia DOT: Stay off the road during Hurricane Michael

RELATED: Georgia DOT prepares to clear roads as Hurricane Michael closes in

The storm could have “significant inland impacts” for Georgia, according to an executive order signed by Deal. The state may face a shortage of petroleum products, food and other necessary emergency materials.

RELATED: Delta cancels some flights, relocates planes due to Hurricane Michael

RELATED: Delta waives fees for bags, pets-in-cabin at airports in Hurricane Michael's path

University of Georgia professor Marshall Shepherd, a former president of the American Meteorological Society, said Hurricane Michael will be “life-altering” and “deadly.”

“I still do not get the sense that people in Georgia in places like Bainbridge, Albany, Columbus, Macon, Augusta, Savannah, Perry, Thomasville, Dublin know what they are about to get,” he said Wednesday in a Facebook post. “The storm is not a point on a map. Impacts will be wide-ranging.”

Heavy rain, gusty winds, severe storms, tornadoes and flooding are possible, especially in the southern portion of the state.

“This hurricane is so strong and large it will take it a while to ramp down from Category 4,” Shepherd said. “... I fully expect it to still be a hurricane well in to Georgia. There will be damage and major power outages.”

Georgia Emergency Management Agency operation center director Jeff Morrison directs staff Wednesday morning. JOHN SPINK / JSPINK@AJC.COM

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Hurricane warnings have been issued for parts of South Georgia. Nearly 30 counties in southwest Georgia are under a moderate flooding rain threat, and many face high or extreme wind threats, according to the National Weather Service.

RELATED: South Georgia college campuses closing in preparation of Hurricane Michael

MORE: Atlanta Motor Speedway campgrounds open to evacuees

Unlike Florence, which inched over the Carolinas and dumped record-breaking rainfall on some areas, Michael is expected to move quickly across the Southeast as it weakens upon landfall.

» For a detailed forecast, visit The Atlanta Journal-Constitution weather page.

» Download The Atlanta Journal-Constitution app for weather alerts on-the-go.

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