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Deadly Hurricane Michael Strongest Storm Ever to Hit Florida Panhandle

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Damage from Hurricane Michael in Panama City, Florida. Joe Raedle / Getty Images

Hurricane Michael made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane in the Florida Panhandle Wednesday afternoon, leaving two dead and nearly 500,000 without power as it rammed through Florida, Georgia and Alabama, BBC News reported.

With winds of 155 miles per hour, it was the third strongest storm in recorded history to hit the U.S. and the strongest ever to hit the affected area, The Washington Post reported.


"We are catching some hell," Timothy Thomas, who stayed with his wife in his home in Panama City, Florida to ride out the storm, told the Associated Press, as BBC News reported.

The storm rapidly intensified from a tropical depression Sunday because of warmer than average waters in the Gulf of Mexico, an effect consistent with predictions about the impact of climate change on hurricanes. A 2013 study found that waters in the eastern Gulf of Mexico had gotten warmer in the past century than would be expected given natural variability, The New York Times pointed out.

"There is a pretty strong consensus [among scientists] that the frequency of the high category events like Michael, in most parts of the world, should go up as a result of climate warming," Massachusetts Institute of Technology atmospheric science professor Kerry A. Emanuel told CNN.

Michael first made landfall near Mexico Beach, Florida at 2 p.m. local time and brought a storm surge of up to eight feet to the coastal city of Apalachicola, BBC News reported.

Winds blew the roofs off of houses in Mexico Beach and further devastated Panama City, where the eye moved next. Windows were blown out of buildings and others were destroyed entirely by wind or downed power lines and trees, CNN reported.

Most building codes aren't designed to withstand 155 mile-per-hour winds, Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Brock Long told CNN.

"Unfortunately, this is a hurricane of the worst kind," Long said.

Both of the reported deaths were caused by falling trees. One man was killed by a tree in Gadsden County, Florida, and a child was killed in Seminole County, Georgia when a tree fell on a home, BBC News reported.

The storm weakened as it headed inland and was downgraded to a tropical storm Thursday. As of Thursday morning it was over eastern Georgia and expected to move into central South Carolina, The Associated Press reported.

While the wind speed has been reduced to 50 miles per hour, winds, potential tornadoes and heavy rain still posed a threat, especially to parts of the Carolinas still recovering from the flooding of Hurricane Florence.

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Aerial view of Ruropolis, Para state, northen Brazil, on Sept. 6, 2019. Tthe world's biggest rainforest is under threat from wildfires and rampant deforestation. JOHANNES MYBURGH / AFP via Getty Images

By Kate Martyr

Deforestation in Brazil's Amazon rainforest last month jumped to the highest level since records began in 2015, according to government data.

A total of 563 square kilometers (217.38 square miles) of the world's largest rainforest was destroyed in November, 103% more than in the same month last year, according to Brazil's space research agency.

From January to November this year an area almost the size of the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico was destroyed — an 83% overall increase in destruction when compared with the same period last year.

The figures were released on Friday by the National Institute for Space Research (INPE), and collected through the DETER database, which uses satellite images to monitor forest fires, forest destruction and other developments affecting the rainforest.

What's Behind the Rise?

Overall, deforestation in 2019 has jumped 30% compared to last year — 9,762 square kilometers (approximately 3769 square miles) have been destroyed, despite deforestation usually slowing during November and December.

Environmental groups, researchers and activists blamed the policies of Brazil's president Jair Bolsonaro for the increase.

They say that Bolosonaro's calls for the Amazon to be developed and his weakening support for Ibama, the government's environmental agency, have led to loggers and ranchers feeling safer and braver in destroying the expansive rainforest.

His government hit back at these claims, pointing out that previous governments also cut budgets to environment agencies such as Ibama.

The report comes as Brazil came to loggerheads with the Association of Small Island States (AOSIS) over climate goals during the UN climate conference in Madrid.

AOSIS blasted Brazil, among other nations, for "a lack of ambition that also undermines ours."

Last month, a group of Brazilian lawyers called for Bolsonaro to be investigated by the International Criminal Court over his environmental policies.

Reposted with permission from DW.

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