Science

Hurricane Michael: everything you need to know on the record-breaking storm

Hurricane Michael: everything you need to know on the record-breaking storm

Two deaths were blamed on the hurricane - one in Florida and one in Georgia as the storm raced across the neighbouring state, heading northeast.

About 310,942 customers in the state were without power as of Wednesday evening, according to PowerOutage.us.

The storm, which was one of the strongest to hit the US since Hurricane Andrew in 1992 when it struck the Florida panhandle Wednesday afternoon, could bring serious damage to south and central Georgia, the National Weather Service said.

At 1am GMT, maximum sustained winds decreased to 90mph with higher gusts, the NHC said in a bulletin.

Michael also disrupted energy operations in the US Gulf of Mexico as it approached land, cutting crude oil production by more than 40 per cent and natural gas output by almost one-third as offshore platforms were evacuated. Now a tropical storm, Michael is headed to the Carolinas.

"Those who stick around to experience storm surge don't typically live to tell about it unfortunately", said FEMA's Long.

"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.

State officials issued disaster declarations in Alabama and Georgia and the storm is also expected to bring heavy rainfall to North and SC.

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From Florida to Alabama and Georgia to the Carolinas, over 900,000 homes and businesses have lost electricity.

Michael, hitting in a less populated area, is "a different monster than Florence", said AccuWeather's Rathbun.

By early Thursday, National Hurricane Center forecasters said waters along the Gulf Coast had finally begun to recede.

See the latest from the Capital Weather Gang here and track the storm's path here. The storm also shut-in 42 percent of oil and 32 percent of natural gas production in the Gulf of Mexico. Its strongest winds, while diminished, will still hit between 50 to 65 miles per hour over the next few days.

Only two other storms in recorded American weather history - that is, since 1851 - had stronger winds.

Meteorologists use another measure to evaluate hurricane intensity: central pressure. Michael's measurement indicates it's more intense than Hurricane Andrew, which hit Florida in 1992 with a pressure of 922 millibars, and Hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans in 2005 when it hit with a pressure of 920 millibars.

Though wind speed is the basis for hurricane categories, central pressure is actually a better measure of damage that a hurricane will cause, a study published past year in the journal Nature Communications found. By early Thursday, Michael had been downgraded to a tropical storm. Authorities said that 285 people in the city refused to leave.

As it came ashore, Michael was just shy of a Category 5 - defined as a storm packing wind speeds of 157 miles per hour or above.