On the Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale, category 4 includes winds of up to 156mph with possible severe damage to even well-built homes and trees being felled. But it's still menacing the Southeast with heavy rains, winds and a threat of spinoff tornadoes. A Category 5 storm is defined by 157 miles per hour or greater winds.
Michael is now moving northwards at 12mph. Early Thursday, the eye of Michael was about 90 miles (144 kilometers) northeast of Macon, Georgia and 45 miles (72 kilometers) west of Augusta.
According to Hal Austin, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Newport, Michael is moving through SC as of Thursday morning.
The National Hurricane Center says the core of Michael will move across eastern Georgia into Central South Carolina on Thursday morning.
A Storm Surge Watch is in effect for.
Farther inland, Tallahassee city officials were grappling with wind damage that had brought down numerous city's trees, blocking streets and knocking out power. Bill Nelson said. "You are going to see a lot of destruction when the rescue crews get into Mexico Beach". When the bridge to the island reopened about 6:30 p.m. Wednesday night, the relief was evident.
Search and rescue teams have been deployed the hardest hit areas, including Panama City and Mexico Beach. The wind howled and rainwater leaked through the ceiling. So many families have lost everything. She remembers finding her bed frame in the sand, her neighbor's bathtub sitting inside it.
Meanwhile, the Coast Guard said it rescued at least 27 people, mostly from homes damaged along the Florida coastline, and searched for more victims.
A Mexico Beach resident who rode out the hurricane described the impact of the storm surge to CNN. "We have done everything we can as far as getting the word out", Smith said. But by Wednesday morning, it was too late to evacuate.
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Already, the global temperature - averaged between land and sea temperatures - has risen 1° Celsius, or 1.8° Fahrenheit, since 1880.
"The time to evacuate coastal areas has come and gone", Florida Gov. Rick Scott said at a news conference Wednesday.
A state emergency-management official said all hospitals in the impacted region have reported some form of "critical failure" - water and sewage problems or infrastructure issues such as crumbling walls - that required patients to be relocated and medical field hospitals to be set up.
Scott said one benefit of the rapidly moving Michael was that it hit during the day and was out of the state before sunset.
This image captured by NASA shows Hurricane Michael, while still a Category 1 storm, as it moves through the Gulf.
An Associated Press team drove for miles and encountered extensive destruction around Panama City.
Gale and James Berry fled to a city shelter in Lincoln High School's cafeteria. 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.
"We haven't seen her since the tree hit the den. You want to check on things, and begin the recovery process", Scott said.
According to reports on October 11, at least two people died during the storm.
About 4.2 million people are under hurricane warnings, from the Panhandle and Big Bend areas in Florida into parts of southeastern Alabama and southern Georgia. According to various local electrical providers, more than 800,000 homes have lost power in Alabama, Florida, Georgia and SC as a result of the storm.
"Tropical storm wind gusts will continue across much of SC and central and eastern North Carolina, with sustained tropical storm force winds expected along the coast of the Carolinas", the agency said.