Michael now tropical storm as it moves through South Carolina

Tropical Storm Michael, 6 a.m., Thursday, Oct. 11 (NOAA GOES 16 Satellite)

Meteorologists say Hurricane Michael was one of the strongest hurricane to make United States landfall in recorded history, but the cyclone has rapidly weakened overnight as it moves inland over South Carolina.

As of 5 a.m. Thursday, Michael had been downgraded to a tropical storm, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Every county in South Carolina was under a tropical storm warning and tornado watch as of 5 a.m. Thursday.

The tornado watch has since expired for Charleston and the Tri-County area.

The center of the storm was in South Carolina near North Augusta moving northeast at around 20 mph as of 7 a.m.

The Palmetto State is expected to see areas of heavy rainfall, potential flash flooding and coastal flooding, and is under the threat of isolated tornadoes as Michael moves through.

In the Lowcountry, high, gusting winds between 20-40 mph look to be the most significant impact, with possibly stronger gusts of wind in excess of 50 mph possible, ABC News 4 meteorologist Emily Gracey says.

Rip currents and beach erosion along the coast are also a possibility, Gracey says.

The Charleston area is expected to only get up to 2 inches of rain in places, while areas farther inland will get more.

Rain combined with unusually high "king tides" and onshore winds from Michael could lead to some coastal flooding, Gracey says.

Wind gusts as high as 55 mph had been reported along the South Carolina coast near Charleston as of 6 a.m., ABC News 4 chief meteorologist Dave Williams said.

South Carolina's Emergency Management Division said more than 96,000 utility customers around the state were without power as of 8:30 a.m.

Charleston Police said power outages were affecting traffic signals on Savannah Highway near Dobbin Road.

There are multiple reports of traffic signals being out in Berkeley and Dorchester counties, and reports of and trees down across Colleton County, according to Highway Patrol.

Downed trees also were reported on Clubhouse Road near U.S. Hwy. 17-A outside Summerville, U.S. Hwy. 78 near I-26, and even on I-526 eastbound near Clements Ferry Road.

A cold front to the west and an area of high pressure to the east are expected to rapidly funnel Michael off the coast and into the Atlantic Ocean by Friday.

South Carolina is expected to stop seeing significant impacts from the the storm by Thursday night.

Michael made landfall near Mexico Beach, Florida on Wednesday as a category 4 hurricane with 155 mph sustained winds, just 2 mph shy of a category 5.

Despite not being quite category 5, Michael was the third strongest storm to ever hit the U.S., according to Philip Klotzbach, a meteorologist and researcher for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) at Colorado State University.

Besides wind speeds, hurricanes are also measured according to barometric pressure. The lower the pressure inside the storm, the stronger it typically is, weather scientists say.

The only hurricanes on record stronger at landfall than Michael are 1969's Hurricane Camille, which hit the Gulf Coast in Mississippi, and the unnamed Labor Day hurricane of 1935, which also hit Florida's Gulf Coast.

Both those storms had lower central pressure measurements at landfall than Michael, Klotzbach says..

Michael was stronger, however, than infamous and catastrophic hurricanes Katrina (Gulf Coast, 2005) and Andrew (Florida, 1992).

The Florida panhandle has been devastated by Michael.

Authorities said at least two people have died, according to the Associated Press. One man was killed by a tree falling on a Panhandle home, and an 11-year-old girl was also killed by a tree falling on a home in southwest Georgia.

Damage in Panama City near where Michael came ashore Wednesday afternoon was so extensive broken and uprooted trees and downed power lines lay nearly everywhere, the AP reports.

Roofs were peeled away, sent airborne, and homes were split open by fallen trees. Twisted street signs lay on the ground. Palm trees whipped wildly in the winds. More than 380,000 homes and businesses were without power at the height of the storm.

It also brought the dangers of a life-threatening storm surge.

In Mexico Beach, population 1,000, the storm shattered homes, leaving floating piles of lumber. The lead-gray water was so high that roofs were about all that could be seen of many homes.

Michael developed quickly from a weekend tropical depression, going from a Category 2 on Tuesday to a Category 4 by the time it came ashore.

It forced more than 375,000 people up and down the Gulf Coast to evacuate as it gained strength. It moved so fast that people didn't' have much time to prepare, and emergency authorities lamented that many ignored the warnings and seemed to think they could ride it out.

Search and rescue crews were expected to escalate efforts to reach hardest-hit areas and check for anyone trapped or injured in the storm debris on Thursday.

(Associated Press writers Jay Reeves, Brendan Farrington, Tamara Lush, Terry Spencer, Freida Frisaro, Russ Bynum, Jonathan Drew, Seth Borenstein, and WCIV-TV's Drew Tripp contributed to this report).

close video ad
Unmutetoggle ad audio on off