Hurricane Michael weakens into a tropical storm over central Georgia

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"Before the storm ever arrived we'd actually transferred command and control capability to another facility", O'Shaughnessy told Pentagon reporters.

Sally Crown rode out Michael on the Florida Panhandle thinking at first that the worst damage was the many trees downed in her yard. A National Ocean Service water level station at Apalachicola recently reported almost 6.5 feet of inundation above ground level.

The most powerful hurricane ever to hit north-west Florida has flooded beach towns, submerging homes and snapping trees like twigs.

"Michael should weaken as it crosses the southeastern United States through Thursday", the NHC said.

Recording the storm's landfall in Panama City Beach, The Associated Press's John Mone watched as the awning of the hotel he was sheltering in was ripped off by the severe winds. North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D) declared a state of emergency Wednesday morning in 66 counties. By Friday, it should be a post-tropical cyclone, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Hurricane Michael's battering waves swamped streets and docks and shrieking winds splintered trees and rooftops.

Although Michael had been downgraded to a Category 2 hurricane by 8 p.m.

That is rarefied air: only three storms have hit the Category 5: an unnamed storm that devastated the Florida Keys in 1935; Camille, which hit MS in 1969; and Andrew, which plowed across South Florida in 1992.

As of 5 p.m. EDT, Michael is still a Category 3 major hurricane with its peak winds measuring 125 miles per hour.

Meteorologists use another measure to evaluate hurricane intensity: central pressure. A National Ocean Service water level station at Apalachicola recently reported over 5 feet of inundation above ground level.

The hurricane center's Graham said Michael represented a "textbook case" of a hurricane system growing stronger as it drew near shore, in contrast to Hurricane Florence, which struck North Carolina last month after weakening in a slow, halting approach.

Maximum sustained winds are forecast to be in the range of 40 to low 50 miles per hour range, according to the NWS. A pine tree punched a hole in their roof and he said the roar of the storm sounded like a jet engine as the winds accelerated.

Wind gusts blew out windows in homes and office buildings, including the First Federal Bank.

The eye of the storm, ... This risk will spread northward into parts of Georgia and southern SC this afternoon and tonight. Forecasters said rainfall could reach up to a foot (30 centimeters), and the life-threatening storm surge could swell to 14 feet (4 meters).

Even if Michael wasn't making landfall in a particularly vulnerable section of US coastline, it would be an unrecoverable storm for many families. Homes were swallowed in storm surge.

Hurricane Michael slammed into the Florida Panhandle with terrifying winds of 155 miles per hour Wednesday, splintering homes and submerging neighborhoods before continuing its destructive charge inland across the Southeast.

In any case, no matter how you measure it, Michael is among the most powerful hurricanes in recent memory along with Camille in 1969, Andrew in 1992 and Katrina in 2005.