Hurricane Michael hit the Florida Panhandle as a Category 4 early Wednesday afternoon and moved into southwest Georgia as a Category 3 storm, officials said.
You can follow updates from GEMA here.
A tornado watch was issued until 2 a.m. Thursday for most of the state and tornado warnings have been issued as far north as Cobb County.
The National Weather Service posts frequently updated watches, warnings and advisories currently in effect in Georgia here.
UPDATE 6 p.m.: Suspected tornado damage is reported in Crawford County.
— NWS Atlanta (@NWSAtlanta) October 10, 2018
UPDATE 5:30 p.m. Hurricane Michael enters southwest Georgia as a Category 3 storm.
UPDATE 4:45 p.m.: Gov. Nathan Deal upgraded the state’s prior emergency declaration to cover 16 additional Georgia counties. Senators Isakson and Perdue urge caution.
UPDATE 4 p.m.: Tornado warning issued until 4:30 p.m. in Horns.
UPDATE 3:55 p.m.: National Weather Service posts its latest update, warning of wind speeds above 100 miles per hour at the Marianna, Fla., airport.
— National Hurricane Center (@NHC_Atlantic) October 10, 2018
UPDATE 3:30 p.m.: Georgia Power official Ron Shipman says 6,500 employees are standing by to help with storm relief and restoring power when it goes out.
UPDATE 3 p.m.: Tornado watch issued until 2 a.m. Thursday and central Georgia counties of Macon, Peach and Houston are under a tornado warning until 3:45 p.m.
UPDATE 2:30 p.m.: Not all of Georgia’s crops have been harvested yet, and the severe weather could pose a problem for farmers, Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black said.
Michael will have a deep impact on the heart of Georgia’s agricultural industry, Black said.
“Eighty percent of our cotton crop is vulnerable, 50 percent of our peanut crop is vulnerable, and 100 percent of our nation-leading pecan crop is vulnerable, and is at ground zero,” Black said.
Georgia’s agriculture industry contributes more than 70 billion dollars annually to Georgia’s economy.
#HurricaneMichael is a historic storm. Georgia’s #agriculture will be impacted tremendously. Please take precaution and know the #GDA is here for you now and will be with you during the aftermath. pic.twitter.com/GRecSfmQG6
— Georgia Grown (@GeorgiaGrown) October 10, 2018
UPDATE 2 p.m.: Officials in southwest Georgia say Michael's strong winds could be a serious danger.
In Bainbridge, there are no evacuation orders but officials have urged residents of mobile homes to find safer shelter with friends or family.
MORE COVERAGE: Bracing For Hurricane Michael's Landfall In Georgia
City council member Roslyn Palmer worries the storm could bring down some of the area's many oak and pine trees.
"We are in the trees, and I'm very concerned that we may end up with a tree...I don't want it, obviously, in my house, but if it does, let it fall in the area we're not," Palmer said.
Those trees could take out power lines as well, she said.
UPDATE: 1:45 p.m.: Hurricane Michael makes landfall with winds at 155 miles per hour, which is just shy of a Category 5 storm.
— National Hurricane Center (@NHC_Atlantic) October 10, 2018
UPDATE 12:15 p.m.: Gov. Nathan Deal holds a news conference on updates related to the incoming hurricane. He said the state is working with the federal government to get help with any damage Hurricane Michael might cause.
"I have already been contacted by several federal secretaries, and they have all pledged their assistance and have already engaged with our department of emergency management here at the state level," Deal said.
The governor at 8 a.m. tweeted that he activated 1,500 Georgia Guardsmen to be placed on standby and deployed as needed to areas affected by Hurricane Michael.
No residents are being forced to evacuate in Georgia, Deal said.
"We are not putting in place any kind of mandatory evacuations; we trust the judgement of Georgians to know what’s best for them under their circumstances," Deal said. "This is not like a costal area where we have seen mandatory evacuations because of storm surge…. This (hurricane is) coming from the exact opposite direction and I think we have covered it as well as we can.”
He said this storm is unlike anything people in the southwest part of the state have faced before, but because they aren’t exposed to storm surge many can stay put.
Emergency shelters are open in Macon and Columbus, as are three animal shelters in the state.
ORIGINAL STORY: Hurricane Michael strengthened to a Category 4 storm earlier Wednesday morning and is expected to make landfall along the Florida Panhandle before 2 p.m., officials say.
Wind speeds are currently 150 miles per hour, which is nearly a Category 5 storm, according to the National Hurricane Center.
That’s bad news for South Georgia. Feeder bands were already rolling through southern parts of the state about noon, bringing gusty winds and heavy rain.
National Weather Service meteorologist Keith Stellman stold GPB News Michael will be a hurricane well inland, into Georgia.
“That’s going to result in a lot stronger winds than we were expecting one or two days ago when it wasn’t expected to be this strong," Stellman said. "Which is also going to result in a lot more widespread power outages and trees down in that part of the state.”
He said conditions in South Georgia will worsen as we head into the afternoon.
Georgia Emergency Management Agency officials say the time to evacuate from the Florida coast is over and anyone in the area should shelter in place.
— Georgia EM&HS (@GeorgiaEMA) October 10, 2018
The Panhandle area hasn't been hit by a storm this dangerous in decades, and forecasters anticipate life-threatening strom surge and flash floods throughout coastal areas along the Gulf, from Pensacola around the coast to Tampa.
Gov. Nathan Deal declared a state of emergency Tuesday in 92 southern counties.
Earlier, Ashley Henyan with the Red Cross said people need to have an emergency kit ready.
"Do that now," Henyan said. "Make sure you have extra batteries, flashlights, first aid kit, crank radio, medications, at least three days worth of food and water for every member of your family and pets."
Henyan said people need to expect downed trees, flooding and power outages. Also, make sure your family has an emergency evacuation plan in place that includes pet-friendly shelters.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service warns power outages and flooding can compromise the safety of stored food. Consumers are encouraged to take the following steps before the power goes out to reduce food waste and the risk of foodborne illness:
- Keep appliance thermometers in both the refrigerator and the freezer to ensure temperatures remain food safe during a power outage. Safe temperatures are 40°F or lower in the refrigerator, 0°F or lower in the freezer.
- Freeze water in one-quart plastic storage bags or small containers prior to a storm. These containers are small enough to fit around the food in the refrigerator and freezer to help keep food cold. Remember, water expands when it freezes, so don’t overfill the containers.
- Freeze refrigerated items, such as leftovers, milk and fresh meat and poultry that you may not need immediately — this helps keep them at a safe temperature longer.
- Know where you can get dry ice or block ice.
- Have coolers on hand to keep refrigerator food cold if the power will be out for more than four hours.
- Group foods together in the freezer — this ‘igloo’ effect helps the food stay cold longer.
- Keep a few days’ worth of ready-to-eat foods that do not require cooking or cooling.
For information regarding emergency services in local areas, contact your local emergency management agency:
Bacon: (912) 632-7979
Brantley: (912) 462-7874
Bryan: (912) 858-2799
Camden: (912) 729-5602
Charlton: (912) 496-1081
Chatham: (912) 201-4500
Clinch: (912) 487-3700
Echols: (229) 559-8500
Effingham: (912) 429-3615
Glynn: (912) 554-7734
Liberty: (912) 368-2201
Long: (912) 545-3683
McIntosh: (912) 437-5170
Pierce: (912) 449-2040
Ware: (912) 287-4394
Wayne: (912) 427-5979
If you need assistance or have questions about State Hurricane Response, call the Georgia Emergency Management at 1-800-TRY-GEMA or (1-800-879-4362).
For medical or health related questions, call the Georgia Department of Public Health at 1-866-PUB-HLTH (1-866-782-4584).