Hurricane Michael made landfall in the Florida Panhandle Wednesday afternoon. The intense Category 4 hurricane was packing top sustained winds of 155 mph when it crashed ashore in the early afternoon near Mexico Beach.
The National Hurricane Center described Michael as "potentially catastrophic." Michael was the worst storm ever to hit the Panhandle.
Nearly 30 million people in the Southeast were in its crosshairs. Forecasters said Michael was bringing damaging winds and potentially life-threatening storm surge.
Nearly 6,700 people were in Florida shelters as Hurricane Michael was making landfall, according to a statement from Gov. Rick Scott's office. The state had 54 shelters open.
The state estimated that more than 375,000 Floridians were ordered to evacuate, but officials had expressed concerns about people not heeding evacuation orders. On Wednesday morning, Scott announced that it was too late for people in coastal areas to evacuate and that they should seek shelter instead.
At noon ET, 29,981 power customers had lost electricity, according to Scott's statement. Duke Energy had said Tuesday that it expected between 100,000 and 200,000 of its customers in the Panhandle to lose power.
The National Hurricane Center said Michael intensified as it was making landfall near Mexico Beach, Florida, as a catastrophic Category 4 hurricane, pushing a deadly storm surge and whipping the coast with 155 mph winds. Less than an hour before the storm made landfall, the hurricane center said Michael had top sustained winds of 150 mph.
Forecasters mark landfall as the place and time when the center of the eye strikes land. Minutes earlier, Michael's eyewall came ashore between Panama City and St. Vincent Island, and the hurricane center warned everyone inside the relative calm of the eye not to venture outside.
Hurricane-force winds extended outward up to 45 miles from the center. Those winds were tearing some buildings apart in Panama City Beach.
One beachfront structure under construction could be seen collapsing, and metal roofing material flew sideways across parking lots amid sheets of rain.
President Trump told reporters that he would look at visiting areas affected by Hurricane Michael on Sunday or Monday. Mr. Trump made the comments during a meeting with Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and FEMA Administrator Brock Long in the Oval Office at the White House.
Mr. Trump said he would likely still travel to Erie, Pennsylvania, for a planned campaign rally Wednesday night. The president said that rally-goers had likely already lined up for the event.
At 11 a.m. ET, the National Hurricane Center warned that the core of Hurricane Michael was closing in on the Florida Panhandle's coast. In an advisory, the hurricane center said "life-threatening" storm surge, hurricane-force winds and heavy rainfall were imminent for the area.
The storm's center was located about 60 miles south-southwest of Panama City and about 65 miles west-southwest of Apalachicola, which are both on the Panhandle's coast. The storm was moving north-northeast at 14 mph.
The center warned that it was still possible for Michael to gain more strength before making landfall. Between 11 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. ET, Michael's maximum sustained winds increased from 145 mph to 150 mph.
"We looked at the records back to 1851," the hurricane center's Director Ken Graham told CBSN. "We can't find one that was a Cat 4 hitting the Panhandle, so you're talking about just dangerous winds."
Storm surge in the Florida Panhandle is what FEMA is most worried about from Hurricane Michael, the agency's Administrator Brock Long said on "CBS This Morning" on Wednesday. Forecasters said the storm surge could rise to as much as 14 feet in some areas.
Long said people who hadn't evacuated ahead of the storm were putting their lives in danger. "We saw this in Florence," he said, referring to the hurricane that hit North Carolina and South Carolina during the summer.
"We put the warnings out, and a large portion of people died in their vehicles driving over flooded-out roads even though we're saying turn around and don't drown," Long said. On Wednesday morning, Florida Gov. Rick Scott urged people who were still in an evacuation zone along the coast to seek refuge, saying that it was too late to evacuate.