But heavy rain could trigger "life-threatening flash floods" in the Florida Panhandle, southeastern Alabama, Georgia, the Carolinas, and southern Virginia as the storm moves to the northeast, according to the National Hurricane Center.
In 2016, Hurricane Matthew, which caused the deaths of almost 600 people in Haiti, quickly grew to a Category 5 storm with sustained winds up 165 miles an hour because of rapid intensification. It strengthened from a tropical storm on Sunday to a Category 1 hurricane with 75-mph winds on Monday.
Diane Farris, 57, was among over 1,000 people crammed into a shelter there. "This is going to have structure-damaging winds along the coast and hurricane force winds inland".
In terms of damage the most costly year was 2017, when besides the Caribbean several U.S. coastal states were hit by powerful hurricanes that moved slowly and dumped record rainful for days. Storm surge could reach heights of 6 feet to 9 feet from the Okaloosa-Walton County line to Mexico Beach and from Keaton Beach to Cedar Key.
After there, the storm will move up through the Carolinas, hit by heavy rains form Hurricane Florence just a few weeks ago. The roar of the winds, he said, sounded like a jet engine.
Based on wind speed, it was the fourth-strongest, behind Andrew in 1992, Camille, and the biggest one of all, an unnamed 1935 Labor Day storm that had winds of 296kph.
About 30km south of Mexico Beach, floodwaters were more than 2.3m deep near Apalachicola, a town of about 2,300 residents, hurricane center chief Ken Graham said. The storm has 100 miles per hour winds.
Roads were flooded, trees uprooted and homes destroyed after the "monstrous" storm ploughed into Mexico Beach at around 2pm and swept across the state. The lead-gray water was so high that roofs were about all that could be seen of many homes. Part of the awning fell and shattered the glass front door of the hotel, and the rest of the awning wound up on vehicles parked below it.
Updates, tracking resources as storm makes landfall
It appeared to be so powerful that it was expected to remain a hurricane as it moved into Alabama and Georgia early Thursday. Jason Phipps looks through his family's roofless apartment after Hurricane Michael made landfall in Panama City, Fla.
Meteorologists watched satellite imagery in complete awe as the storm intensified, with experts saying it is the worst ever recorded in the region.
The storm is likely to fire up the debate over global warming.
"Going back through records to 1851 we can't find another Cat 4 in this area, so this is unfortunately a historical and incredibly risky and life-threatening situation", he said.
As the hurricane moves out of Florida, Scott warned that flash floods and tornadoes are still possibilities and said "the weather is still extremely risky". But without extensive study, they can not directly link a single weather event to the changing climate. At the time, the then-tropical-storm wasn't expected to achieve its current Category 4 status, but now that it's here, it's time to batten down the hatches. They said Michael could be the strongest hurricane to hit that stretch of coastline in 13 years.
A gust of 130 miles per hour was recorded near Tyndall Air Force Base, just outside Panama City, Florida, on Wednesday before the device malfunctioned and could no longer keep up, CNN reported.
The St. Marks River overflows into the city of St. Marks, Fla., Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018.