Governor makes urgent plea as Hurricane Michael lashes Florida

With Hurricane Michael bearing down on his state, Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared on Wednesday morning that “the time for evacuating along the coast has come and gone.”

“First responders will not be able to come out in the middle of the storm. If you chose to stay in an evacuation zone, you must SEEK REFUGE IMMEDIATELY,” he wrote on Twitter.

Scott later said he gave President Trump an update on the Category 4 hurricane, whose leading edge lashed northwest Florida’s coast with tropical storm-force winds.

“He offered any federal resources necessary as we prepare to respond to this massive and catastrophic storm,” he tweeted about the president.

Florida officials said more than 375,000 people along the Gulf Coast had been urged or ordered to evacuate.

The National Hurricane Center said Michael will be the first Category 4 hurricane in recorded history to make landfall on the Florida Panhandle.

At 8 a.m., it was centered about 90 miles southwest of Panama City with top winds of 145 mph and moving at 13 mph. It was set to make landfall later Wednesday and drive sea levels as high as 14 feet above normal, the center said.

The hurricane is so powerful — with a central pressure plunging to 933 millibars — that it is expected to remain a hurricane as it sweeps over central Georgia early Thursday en route to the Carolinas. The strongest Atlantic hurricane ever recorded — Wilma in 2005 — had a pressure reading of 882 mba.

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal has issued a state of emergency for 92 of the state’s 159 counties.

“We are in new territory,” National Hurricane Center meteorologist Dennis Feltgen wrote on Facebook. “The historical record, going back to 1851, finds no Category 4 hurricane ever hitting the Florida panhandle. Bay County (Panama City) likely to be ground zero for landfall later this afternoon.”

With Post wires

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