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Hurricane Michael downgraded to category 1

Hurricane Michael, the fiercest storm to hit Florida in more than 80 years and the third-most powerful to strike the US mainland, has battered the state’s Gulf coast with roof-shredding winds, towering surf and torrential rain.

Michael, whose rapid intensification as it churned north over the Gulf of Mexico caught many by surprise, made landfall early on Wednesday afternoon near Mexico Beach, 32km southeast of Panama City in Florida’s Panhandle region, with top sustained winds reaching 249km/h.

The storm came ashore as a category four hurricane. Its sustained winds were just 3.2km/h shy of an extremely rare category five.

As predicted, the storm’s intensity diminished steadily as it pushed inland and curled northeasterly into Georgia after dark. About eight hours after landfall, Michael was downgraded to a category one storm, with top sustained winds of 150km/h.

In the first apparent hurricane-related fatality reported, Gadsden County sheriff’s spokeswoman, Anglie Hightower, said a “male subject” was killed by a tree toppling onto his house in Greensboro.

Severe flooding, structural damage, uprooted trees and downed power lines appeared widespread in coastal areas near where the storm made landfall.

Television news footage earlier in the day showed floods up to the roofs of many homes in Mexico Beach.

Di Franco Remondina (Dodicesima.com)

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