Friday, 19 October, 2018

Hurricane Michael gains strength, takes aim at north Florida

Hurricane Michael forms in gulf Lowcountry impact expected later this week Hurricane Michael has formed in the Gulf of Mexico
Charlie Simmons | 10 October, 2018, 08:31

If Michael is a Category 2 storm, it will bring winds of 96 to 110 miles per hour and can be expected to produce extensive property damage.

The last major hurricane - Category 3 or above - to hit the Panhandle was Hurricane Dennis, which made landfall near Pensacola in 2005, according to hurricane center data.

A hurricane warning is in effect from the Alabama-Florida border to the Suwannee River.

Michael is forecast to become a category four hurricane before it reaches the coast of Florida.

As the storm moved north it battered Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula and western Cuba with drenching rains and winds of up to 80 miles per hour (130 kph), the Miami-based hurricane centre said.

While the exact track and impacts remain uncertain, Michael does look set to track northeastward towards Atlantic Canada, moving through this neck of the woods late Friday and Saturday, likely a post-tropical system.

National Weather Service Hurricane Michael is expected to make landfall Wednesday along Florida's Panhandle.

Mandatory evacuation orders went into effect for some 120,000 people in Panama City Beach and across other low-lying parts of the coast.

A hurricane warning was issued for much of the Florida panhandle, with tropical storm watches and warnings issued for areas nearby.

Several US Gulf Coast counties have issued curfews ahead of Michael's arrival.

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"While the impacts are still uncertain, our area could experience increased wind activity and heavy rainfall, which could cause localised flooding and downed trees", Tallahassee officials said in a statement. A storm surge up to 12 feet is possible along portions of Florida's Gulf Coast from Steinhatchee to Apalachicola Bay. Weakening is expected after landfall as Michael moves across the southeastern United States.

He said: "We don't know if it's going to wipe out our house or not".

"I just got a crew that came in that are staying also and they're in here helping me get everything buttoned up, tightened down, getting the food secure", Givens said.

Michael wasn't quite done wreaking havoc in the Caribbean. Winds are sustained at 120 miles per hour. Hurricane-force winds extended outward up to 35 miles from the center and tropical-storm-force winds were outward up to 185 miles.

Storm surge that could be greater than 6 feet is forecast as far south as Crystal River with more than 9 feet into Apalachicola Bay.

Tolls were being suspended in the state's northwest region to ease the evacuation process, and the Florida Highway Patrol is sending almost 350 state troopers to the Panhandle and Big Bend areas, Scott said. On the other extreme are several models, including the European one, that predict Michael will move more slowly but reach SC near the coastline overnight Thursday and reach North Carolina's Outer Banks by late Friday.

Forecasters warned that Michael could ultimately dump a foot (30 centimeters) of rain in western Cuba, triggering flash floods and mudslides in mountain areas.

Rick Knabb, a former NHC head, urged locals in Michael's path to waste no time in evacuating.

Mandatory evacuations were under way in coastal areas, with 1,250 National Guard soldiers aiding the process and more than 4,000 troops placed on standby, according to the governor's office.

In Georgia, which will be hit by damaging winds and downed power lines, Gov. Nathan Deal on Tuesday declared a state of emergency for 92 of his state's counties.

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