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Track Hurricane Michael via CNN's Live Storm Tracker

Track Hurricane Michael via CNN's Live Storm Tracker

As the clock struck Thursday, the storm had weakened to a tropical storm.

High winds and heavy rains lashed the coast.

At their most fearsome, these low-pressure weather fronts pack more power than the energy released by the atomic bomb that levelled Hiroshima.

A child was killed in Seminole County, Georgia during the storm, emergency management officials said. It was centered about 30 miles southwest of Macon, Georgia.

Separately, the National Weather Service office in the state capital Tallahassee issued a dramatic appeal for people to comply with evacuation orders.

Maul on Monday expressed criticism in an email that local officials were not sufficiently preparing for the storm, noting that some safety operations weren't scheduled to begin until Tuesday afternoon.

Thank you for signing up for the NOW Newsletter. Palm trees whipped wildly in the winds. This is an extremely unsafe and life-threatening situation. "We have staff monitoring the storm 24 hours a day to ensure inmates and staff have safe, secure housing".

A team of Massachusetts Red Cross volunteers headed south yesterday to Florida to help tens of thousands of people threatened by Hurricane Michael, expected to hit the Panhandle and the Southeast today.

A Weather Channel crew even tried to leave its base in Apalachicola but couldn't because storm conditions made it impossible to drive, meteorologist Mike Bettes said on Twitter. Just two hurricanes have ever hit the USA with barometric pressure readings in the eye - a key metric of a storm's effects - lower than the 919 millibars of Michael. Graham said storm surge will inundate the Aucilla River there to a point where it will "flow backward".

"Our biggest weather change will be increased showers", Hurts said.

Across the bay in Panama City Beach, a resort city on the Gulf of Mexico known for its white-sand beach and amusement parks, winds of about 100 miles per hour furiously whipped the trees in the early afternoon and pulled apart homes. A light pole toppled onto an SUV in the parking lot. She and her daughter booked a hotel room through Friday.

At the White House, President Donald Trump said, "God bless everyone because it's going to be a rough one", he said.

Perry and Mollie Williams were riding out the storm in their "fortress" home a block from the beach, their three cats and Rottweiler in tow.

"This happened so quickly, we weren't exactly prepared", he said. "We want to get them out of the way".

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"Those who stick around to witness storm surge don't typically live to talk about it", he said.

The child's death is the second known storm-related death.

About 3,500 Florida National Guard troops were deployed, along with more than 1,000 search-and-rescue personnel, Governor Scott said.

For those who are anxious about a friend or family member, keep in mind that FEMA, Florida National Guard, Red Cross and countless other agencies have personnel in place to respond to affected areas as soon as it safe.

The hurricane was forecast to make landfall somewhere along the Florida Panhandle - a finger-shaped strip of land on the Gulf of Mexico - or the Big Bend, which connects the former to the peninsula jutting south.

Tallahassee, a city of 200,000, sits 100 miles east of Panama City. Tropical-storm force winds, extending 185 miles (295 kilometres) from the centre, were already lashing the coast, and hurricane-force winds reached out 45 miles (75 kilometres) from the centre.

Diane Farris, 57, and her son walked to a high school-turned-shelter near their home in Panama City to find about 1,100 people crammed into a space meant for about half as many.

Aja Kemp, 36, planned to stay in her mobile home in Crawfordville.

Lisa Dawn Parker, 51, chose to stay behind in Panama City Beach with her boyfriend.

The center says devastating storm surges of up to 13 feet are expected to hit parts of Florida's Gulf Coast, and flash-flooding from heavy rains could hit as far north as Virginia, the Pensacola Journal reports.

Michael has been downgraded to a tropical storm as it continues slamming Georgia with heavy rain and risky winds.

Up to 12 inches of rain could fall in Florida's Panhandle and Big Bend, southeastern Alabama and southern Georgia.

Bacon and Rice reported from Mclean, Va.


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