UPDATES: Michael moves rapidly over NC; more power outages expected, wind field expands

Michael barrels down over Georgia, maximum sustained winds are at 90 mph, category 1, as it moves to the northeast at 17 mph. It will continue to gradually weaken as it enters the Carolinas overnight.

Tropical Storm Michael continues to weaken as it moves over the Carolinas.

5 p.m. UPDATE: 

Tropical Storm Michael is still alive crossing the Mid-Atlantic States Thursday afternoon. It will exit to the Atlantic Ocean early Friday.

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Michael has expanded its wind field, tropical storm force winds extend 230 miles from its center, mainly to the southeast.

Before going back out to sea, Virginia and North Carolina will receive heavy rainfall producing flash flooding and tropical storm force-winds that will cause more power outages in the region. Dangerous storm surge is expected across the northern North Carolina Coast.

Good news is that it will continue to move rapidly at about 25 mph to the northeast. It is expected to gain a bit of strength once it is over water, but without affecting land. Good riddance Michael!

12:15 p.m.
Experts at the National Hurricane Center say Hurricane Michael's devastating storm surge reached as high as 14 feet (4.27 meters) in some areas of Florida's Gulf coast.
The center's storm surge unit said Thursday that peak storm surge ranged from 9 feet (2.7 meters) to 14 feet (4.27 meters) from Mexico Beach east through Apalachee Bay. 
Officials said the highest storm surge hit near Mexico Beach and Port St. Joe, based on available observations and post-landfall models.
Officials had been warning that the surge of water pushed by the storm could be as serious as the hurricane's punishing winds. The threat of the storm prompted local officials to order mandatory evacuations in several Florida coastal counties.

10:50 a.m. UPDATE

South Carolina is getting heavy rains and gusty winds as Tropical Storm Michael speeds through.
But officials aren't seeing anything like the damage inflicted by Hurricane Florence last month.
Authorities say about 150,000 South Carolina customers are without power. Trees are downed and there's minor flash flooding, including standing water that closed ramps onto Interstates 85 and 385 in Greenville.

Waves were hitting the top of the Charleston Battery, but the city wasn't reporting the kind of widespread flooding it gets several times a year.

The National Weather Service says winds along the coast gusted to nearly 60 mph (97 kph) and parts of Chesterfield County already had 4 to 6 inches (10 to 15 centimeters) of rain with more to come. Parts of the county saw more than 20 inches (50 centimeters) of rain in Florence. Areas to the east that were hit even harder by Florence's flooding are reporting much less rain from Michael.
10:40 a.m. UPDATE

Gov. Rick Scott says people from Florida's Panhandle to the Big Bend woke up to "unimaginable destruction." He says Hurricane Michael have changed lives forever, and "many families have lost everything." He says "this hurricane was an absolute monster."

Florida officials also said Florida's big mental hospital in Chattahoochee is "entirely cut off" by land, so they're dropping food and supplies in from the air. The mental hospital has a section that houses the criminally insane, but they say the facility itself has not been breached.

In Panama City, Bay County emergency management officials say most roads remained blocked by water or debris Thursday morning, so survivors in the should "stay put and standby."

As for people outside the disaster zone, they're asking people moved by images of the destruction to make monetary donations to relief organizations, rather than sending supplies.

8:45 a.m. UPDATE
Michael is now centered over South Carolina and is still a tropical storm after a long land journey over the southeastern United States.

A day after slamming into Florida's Gulf Coast as a strong Category 4 hurricane, Michael still had top sustained winds of 50 mph (85 kmh) and higher gusts, with tropical storm-force winds reaching 160 miles (260 km) from its center.

As of 8 a.m. Thursday, the storm was about 40 miles (65 kilometers) west-northwest of Columbia, South Carolina, moving northeast at 21 mph (33 kph). It's expected to keep blowing across central and eastern North Carolina and southeastern Virginia before crossing into the Atlantic Ocean by late Thursday or early Friday.

And at that point, forecasters expect Michael to strengthen again over open water.

The storm's maximum sustained winds have decreased to 50 mph and it was moving to the northeast at 21 mph.
EARLIER: The National Hurricane Center says the core of Michael will move across eastern Georgia into Central South Carolina on Thursday morning. It will then move across portions of central and eastern North Carolina and southeastern Virginia into the Atlantic Ocean by late Thursday or early Friday.

Storm surge started to recede over the Panhandle Florida, although high tide could cause some areas, normally dry, to stay wet.

The Florida Highway Patrol has closed an 80-mile stretch of Interstate 10 to clear debris from Hurricane Michael.
In an email sent early Thursday, spokesman Eddie Elmore said the road was closed "due to extremely hazardous conditions." 
The agency is working with the Florida Department of Transportation to clear the interstate which is the major east-west route across northern Florida and the Panhandle.
Elmore said the road is closed west of Tallahassee, between mile marker 85 near DeFuniak Springs and mile marker 166 near Lake Seminole.

Michael the strongest hurricane to make landfall in the continental U.S. since Andrew in 1992.

Seas will start to deteriorate as gale to storm-force winds are forecast across the southeastern Virginia, extreme northeastern North Carolina and the Delmarva Peninsula Thursday night and Friday.

Heavy rainfall from Georgia, the Carolinas and Virginia is forecast between 3 to 6 inches with some isolated spots reaching 8 inches. Heavier amounts could trigger life-threatening flash flooding.

Thursday will be a rough day for many residents in Georgia and northern Florida, as many of them have not been able to see Michael's aftermath. Images will be rough to watch for those afar.

Stay tuned in to Eyewitness News starting at 5 a.m. We have a crew in northern Florida and will continue to bring you the latest and updates on the aftermath. You can also get updates on wftv.com and on our WFTV  News apps