(CNN) -After carving a path of despair along the coast of Florida’s Panhandle, Hurricane Michael drubbed the state’s inland rural communities with such unexpected brutal force that it left residents and officials stunned — and facing a daunting recovery.
If you are willing to help out and you are wondering how, here is how you can:
Hurricane Michael is close to a catastrophic, unprecedented Category 4 strike on the Florida Panhandle and Big Bend with a life-threatening storm surge and over 100 mph winds possible not just near the coast, but also inland that could leave some areas without power for over a week.
An extreme wind warning has been issued until 2:15 p.m. EDT for Gulf, southern Bay and southwestern Franklin counties where winds in excess of 130 mph are moving onshore. This is an extremely dangerous and life-threatening situation. Treat this warning as if a tornado was approaching and move immediately to the safe room in your shelter, advises the National Weather Service.
If Michael makes landfall as a Category 4 storm, as expected, it will be the strongest hurricane to ever come ashore along the Florida Panhandle in records dating to 1851, according to Dr. Phil Klotzbach, tropical scientist at Colorado State University. In fact, Florida's entire Gulf Coast north of Punta Gorda has never recorded a Category 4-plus hurricane landfall.
No longtime residents of this area will have seen a hurricane this strong before.
As the National Weather Service in Tallahassee emphasized early Wednesday, this morning was the last chance to get to a safe place in the Florida Panhandle and Big Bend hurricane and storm surge warned areas.