(AP) – The National Hurricane Center says Hurricane Michael made landfall Wednesday near Mexico Beach, Florida, as a catastrophic Category 4 Hurricane, pushing a deadly storm surge and whipping the coast with 155 mph winds.
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.
Authorities say lifeguards had to save three children who were playing in the ocean at a South Carolina beach as Hurricane Michael approached.
Beaufort County Emergency Management Division Commander Neil Baxley said a 15-year-old and two 9-year-olds were on boogie boards off Hilton Head Island around 12:15 p.m. Wednesday when the waves quickly started to pull them from shore.
Baxley says rescuers were able to make it to the children and bring them to safety.
Officials in South Carolina say they are more concerned about tornadoes than flooding from Hurricane Michael.
The National Weather Service says tornadoes are possible across the Florida Panhandle, southeast Georgia and southern South Carolina through Thursday morning as Michael moves inland.
Beaufort County Emergency Management Division Commander Neil Baxley says the tornadoes can spin up fast with little warning in the rainbands of the weakening hurricane.
South Carolina saw 47 tornadoes in two days in 2004 as Tropical Storm Frances move north from the Florida Panhandle.
Baxley says the 1-to-2-foot storm surge predicted for areas like Hilton Head Island is not even enough to trigger a warning.
Along with tornadoes, forecasters are warning of flash flooding from heavy rain and trees and power lines knocked down by gusty winds.