Hurricane Michael continued its barrage northeast through the Florida panhandle and into the southeastern portion of Alabama Wednesday afternoon, where the Category 3 storm was expected to rage in an arc across central Georgia and into the Carolinas.
At 4 p.m., the storm was about 70 miles southwest of Albany, Ga., and moving north-northeast at 16 miles per hour.
“On the forecast track, the core of Michael will move across southeastern Alabama and southwestern Georgia through this evening. Michael will then move northeastward across the southeastern United States through Thursday, and then move off the Mid-Atlantic coast away from the United States on late Thursday night and Friday,” the National Hurricane Center said.
Maximum sustained winds were still a blistering 125 mph, and hurricane-force winds extended about 40 miles from the core of the storm.
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Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal has declared a state of emergency for 108 of the state’s 159 counties, including Muscogee, Chattahoochee, Talbot, Marion, Stewart, Sumter, Taylor, Schley, Quitman and Webster south and east of Columbus. Harris and Troup counties north of Columbus are not part of the state of emergency. Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey also declared a statewide emergency in her state.
When will Hurricane Michael strike Georgia - and where?
The storm’s most damaging winds will begin hitting the state before 8 p.m. Wednesday and continue through much of the night, according to the National Hurricane Center.
The center of the storm crossed the extreme southwestern Georgia border early Wednesday evening. It will move in a northeastern arc past Albany, Warner Robins, and Augusta.
“Life threatening” storm surges, tornadoes and winds are expected to lash the state throughout the night as the hurricane drifts northeast, according to the National Hurricane Center.
With the storm moving at about 16 mph Wednesday afternoon, the center of the storm may hit Columbus at approximately 11 p.m. before moving briskly across the state overnight and into Thursday morning.
By Thursday at 1 p.m., the storm will be hovering between the borders of South and North Carolina, unless the direction or speed of the hurricane changes significantly.
The effects in the area could be severe. Several tornadoes spawned in central Georgia hours before the worst of the storm was expected to hit the area. Residents were advised to shelter in place.
“With a stronger landfall, weakening will now only take this down to a Category 1 hurricane as it approaches the forecast area. As it tracks across Central Georgia, hurricane force winds may transition to mainly gusts but effects will remain the same with hundreds if not thousands of trees and powerlines downed,” the National Weather Service wrote.