TV reporter almost swept up in hurricane
TERRIFYING footage shows a TV reporter almost getting blown away as Hurricane Michael bore down on Florida.
NBC News television reporter Kerry Sanders was almost blown away while attempting a piece-to-camera during Hurricane Michael.
Sanders had been reporting from Panama City Beach, just a few kilometres from where Michael made landfall.
Terrifying footage showed Sanders struggling to stay on his feet during the broadcast, almost being blown away in the strong winds.
The Weather Channel's Jim Cantore then came in and managed to pull him over to a pole, which he clung on to while waiting for the wind to ease up.
"Wow. Thank you, thank you," Sanders says as he's brought towards the shelter. He then manages to run inside.
"Wow, holy cow," he says.
Authorities have warned it's not safe to travel across the Panhandle, urging locals to flee. "Remember, we can rebuild your house. We cannot rebuild your life," said Governor Rick Scott.
'WORST STORM IN A CENTURY'
Hurricane Michael has made landfall in Florida as the strongest hurricane to hit the United States in almost 30 years.
The vicious storm slammed into the Florida Panhandle with potentially catastrophic winds of up to 249km/h, in what will be the third strongest storm in the country's history.
"This is the worst storm that our Florida Panhandle has seen in a century," Florida Governor Rick Scott warned locals.
Tuesday's satellite images of the hurricane appeared to warn that it would become a Category 4 storm before its eye hits the region, appearing to show a sinister smirking skull face:
Meteorologists noted the skull's presence as the eye begins to clear out through the surrounding storm clouds.
According to the National Hurricane Centre, it's still possible for Michael to gain more strength after making landfall.
"We looked at the records back to 1851," the hurricane centre's director Ken Graham told CBS News. "We can't find one that was a Category 4 hitting the Panhandle, so you're talking about just dangerous winds."
SCENES OF DEVASTATIO N AS STORM MAKES LANDFALL
Photos have captured the scenes of devastation as Hurricane Michael made landfall.
Michael blew ashore near Mexico Beach, a tourist town about midway along the Panhandle, a lightly populated, 320km stretch of white sand beach resorts, fishing towns and military bases.
Its winds roaring, it battered the coastline with sideways rain, powerful gusts and crashing waves, swamped streets, bent trees, stripped away limbs and leaves, and sent building debris flying. Explosions apparently caused by transformers could be heard.
"The window to evacuate has come to a close," Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator Brock Long said.
The meteorological brute quickly sprang from a weekend tropical depression, becoming a furious Category 4 by early Wednesday, up from a Category 2 less than a day earlier. It was the most powerful hurricane on record to hit the Panhandle.
"I've had to take antacids - I'm so sick to my stomach today because of this impending catastrophe," National Hurricane Centre scientist Eric Blake tweeted as the storm - drawing energy from the Gulf's unusually warm, 28C water - grew more frightening.
Weather experts have sent out grim warnings to anyone who could be in the storm's path, with Mr Graham saying: "If they tell you to leave, you have to leave."
More than 375,000 people up and down the Gulf Coast were urged to evacuate, with schools and state offices closed for the week.
But emergency authorities lamented that many people ignored the warnings and seemed to think they could ride it out.
Governor Scott has urged locals to seek shelter immediately.
Senator Bill Nelson said a "wall of water" could cause major destruction along vulnerable areas of the Panhandle.
"Don't think that you can ride this out if you're in a low-lying area," he said.
Flash flooding with heavy rain, storms surging up to 4m high and devastating winds reaching southern Alabama and Georgia are among the main concerns.
The storm appeared to be so powerful that it is expected to remain a hurricane as it moves over neighbouring state Georgia today.
Forecasters said it will unleash damaging wind and rain all the way into North and South Carolina, which are still recovering from Hurricane Florence's epic flooding.
Scientists say global warming is responsible for more intense and more frequent extreme weather, such as storms, droughts, floods and fires. But without extensive study, they cannot directly link a single weather event to the changing climate.
US President Donald Trump said he would visit the area on Sunday or Monday, after the storm had passed.
- with AAP