Michael is the strongest hurricane to hit the continental US in 14 years

PANAMA CITY, Florida -- Hurricane Michael hit the Florida Panhandle with frightening fury and at least one death was reported during its passage.

The Category 4 storm was packing maximum sustained winds of 155 mph as it made landfall near Mexico Beach.

In terms of wind intensity, that made it much stronger than Hurricane Florence, which had winds of 90 mph when it blew ashore in North Carolina last month.

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Here are some other facts that show the power of this "monstrous storm."

  • Michael was the first Category 4 storm on record to make landfall in the Florida Panhandle.
  • It was also the first major hurricane (Category 3 or above) to strike the Florida Panhandle since Hurricane Dennis in 2005.
  • After Michael was downgraded Wednesday afternoon, it became the first Category 3 hurricane to track into the state of Georgia since the 1898.
  • Only three major hurricanes made landfall in the Panhandle since 1950 before this: Eloise in 1975, Opal in 1995 and Dennis in 2005.
  • Michael was expected to be the strongest hurricane, based on wind speeds, to make landfall in the continental US since Hurricane Charley hit Florida in 2004.
  • The "forecast cone" for Michael (the storm's projected path) stretches from Florida all the way north to Maryland.
  • Before Michael made landfall, about 30 million people were under a hurricane watch or warning, or tropical storm watch or warning, across six states (Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina).
  • Michael is the seventh hurricane of the year in the Atlantic Basin. On average, the Atlantic has about five hurricanes by October 8.
  • Its tropical-storm-force wind speeds stretch for more than 320 miles -- equal to the distance between New York City and Pittsburgh.
  • Florida has had more hurricanes in October than in any other month.

Hurricane Michael has begun weakening as it charges across southwestern Georgia with damaging winds and rains. It has dropped from a once formidable Category 4 to a bottom-tier Category 1 storm.

With the hurricane still pounding Florida hours after it came ashore, and conditions too dangerous in places for search-and-rescue teams to go out, there were no further reports on deaths or injuries by nightfall.

The National Hurricane Center in Miami said the eye of Michael was about 20 miles (32 kilometers) southwest of Albany, Georgia, at 8 p.m. EDT Wednesday. It had top sustained winds of 90 mph (145 kph) and was moving to the northeast at 17 mph (27 kph).

Forecasters say storm flooding is still occurring along the Florida Gulf Coast after Michael crashed ashore Wednesday afternoon as a fierce storm with 155 mph winds. The storm is expected to head to the northeast as it crosses south and central Georgia into the Carolinas in coming hours.

Continuing coverage, here.