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category five hurricane

Image source NASA Earth Observatory

Hurricane Michael, the third-strongest storm in recorded history to hit the US mainland, has battered north-west Florida killing two people, including one child, and flooding beach towns and snapping trees.

It made landfall on October 10 as a Category 4 storm with 155mph winds in Florida’s Panhandle region.

According to officials, the victims were killed by falling trees.

Hurricane Michael was downgraded to a tropical storm as it weakened over Georgia on its way to the Carolinas.

The US National Hurricane Center says that storm-surge warnings are in place between Panama City Beach and Keaton Beach in Florida, and between Ocracoke Inlet and Duck in North Carolina.

Hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses were left without electricity in Florida, Alabama and Georgia.

There are fears for people who ignored evacuation warnings in some of the areas now flooded.

According to Florida officials, a man was killed when he was crushed by a tree in Gadsden County while a child died when a tree fell on a home in Seminole County, Georgia.

The storm earlier reportedly killed at least 13 people as it passed through Central America: six in Honduras, four in Nicaragua and three in El Salvador.

Hurricane Michael made landfall near Mexico Beach, Florida, at around 14:00 on October 10.

Only the unnamed Labor Day hurricane, which hit Florida in 1935, and Hurricane Camille, which struck Mississippi in 1969, made landfall with greater intensity.

The Labor Day storm’s barometric pressure (the lower the number, the stronger the storm) was 892 millibars and Camille’s was 900, while Michael blew in with 919.

Hurricane Florence Sparks Evacuations in South Carolina and States of Emergency in North Carolina and Virginia

Hurricane Nate Hits Louisiana and Mississippi

Hurricane Maria Leaves Puerto Rico Without Power

Hurricane Michael was so powerful as it swept into Florida that it remained a hurricane as it moved further inland.

Its rapid intensification caught many by surprise, although the storm later weakened.

Only on October 9 Michael was a Category 2 hurricane but by October 10 it had reached borderline category five, the highest level.

More than 370,000 people in Florida were ordered to evacuate but officials believe many ignored the warning.

The storm knocked out power to a quarter of a million homes and businesses, as power lines were smashed by falling trees.

Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Brock Long said at the White House that he was especially concerned about buildings constructed before 2001, and not able to withstand such high winds.

President Donald Trump responded: “We just hope those structures can hold up.”

“And if not, that they’re not in those structures.”

States of emergency have been declared in all or parts of Florida, Alabama, Georgia and North Carolina.

Schools and state offices in the area are to remain shut this week and Florida has activated 3,500 National Guard troops.

Residents in the Caribbean islands have made last-minute preparations for Hurricane Irma, the most powerful Atlantic storm in a decade, with officials warning of its “potentially catastrophic” effects.

Irma, a category 5 hurricane, the highest possible level, has sustained wind speeds reaching 185mph.

The hurricane is starting to hit the Leeward Islands and will move on towards Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.

In the US, Florida’s Key West area has ordered a mandatory evacuation.

Visitors will be required to leave on September 6, with residents due to follow in the evening, and the international airport will halt all flights.

Martin Senterfitt, the emergency operations centre director in Monroe County in Florida, said: “We’re emphatically telling people you must evacuate. You cannot afford to stay on an island with a category five hurricane coming at you.”

Image source DoI.gov

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Closer to the storm, thousands of people have been evacuated from at-risk areas. Residents have flocked to shops for food, water, and emergency supplies, and in several locations goods were already in short supply.

Airports have closed on several islands, popular holiday destinations, and authorities have urged people to go to public shelters.

President Donald Trump has declared a state of emergency for Florida, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, mobilizing federal disaster relief efforts for those areas.

In Puerto Rico, a 75-year-old man died during preparations for the storm, which has been described by Governor Ricardo Rossello as “something without precedent”.

Storm surges, life-threatening winds and torrential rainfall are expected along the Leeward Islands, which include Antigua, Barbuda and Anguilla.

Parts of Texas and Louisiana are dealing with the damage done by Hurricane Harvey last month. But it is not yet clear what impact Hurricane Irma might have on the US mainland.

The mainland has not been hit by two category 4 hurricanes in one season since the storms were first recorded in 1851.

A third tropical storm, Jose, has formed further out in the Atlantic behind Irma, and is expected to become a hurricane later on in the week.