Michael forecast to grow into major hurricane

Gwen Vasquez
October 11, 2018

The storm - now located over the Gulf of Mexico - is sweeping toward the Florida coast at around 12 miles per hour and is expected to make landfall on Wednesday, bringing with it "life threatening" storm surges and heavy rainfall, the National Hurricane Center said. Michael is an upper-level category 4 hurricane.

Data from a NOAA Hurricane Hunter aircraft indicate that the maximum sustained winds have increased to near 100 miles per hour (155 kph) with higher gusts.

The storm's intensity waned steadily as it pushed inland and curled northeasterly into Georgia after dark. The system has now graduated to Category 2 hurricane status and is expected to reach Category 3 (with winds in excess of 110 mph) when it makes its US mainland landfall on Wednesday afternoon.

A Panhandle man was killed by a tree that toppled on a home, Gadsden County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Anglie Hightower said.

A major concern also is restoring electricity after what is expected to be widespread power outages.

After being battered for almost three hours by strong winds and heavy rains, roads in Panama City were virtually impassable and trees, satellite dishes and traffic lights lay in the streets.

"If you're responsible for a patient, you're responsible for the patient".

"My God, it's scary".

Diane Farris, 57, and her son walked to a high school-turned-shelter near their home in Panama City to find about 1,100 people crammed into a space meant for about half as many. Neighborhood streets flooded as waves battered the shoreline. The lead-grey water was so high that roofs were about all that could be seen of many homes.

Storm surges of between nine and thirteen feet are now projected for the gulf coast between Mexico Beach, Florida (just south of Panama City on the Panhandle) and Keaton Beach on Florida's Big Bend. Wind damage was also evident.

Scott said his main concern from the rapidly developing hurricane is storm surge, which the National Weather Service estimates could reach eight to 12 feet between Indian Pass in Gulf County and Cedar Key in Levy County and top six feet from Crystal River in Citrus County to the Okaloosa-Walton County Line.

But Brad Kieserman of the American Red Cross said Wednesday that as many as 320,000 people on Florida's Gulf Coast had disregarded mandatory or voluntary evacuation notices. "Take care of them", he said.

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Bo Patterson, the mayor of Port St. Joe, just south of Mexico Beach, rode out the storm in his house seven blocks from the beach.

Across the Panhandle, roaring winds splintered trees and rooftops. "It's very, very scary".

"We haven't seen her since the tree hit the den".

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

"This situation has NEVER happened before", it said on Twitter.

Michael wasn't quite done wreaking havoc in the Caribbean on Tuesday (Wednesday NZT).

"Hurricane Michael is forecast to be the most destructive storm to hit the Florida panhandle in decades", Scott added.

Hurricane Michael continued strengthening while moving north-northwestward over the southeastern Gulf of Mexico as NASA's Aqua satellite provided infrared and visible imagery of the storm.

On Tuesday, Gov Scott said he activated 2,500 Florida National Guard troops in preparation for the storm. It also set off transformer explosions and knocked out power to more than 190,000 homes and businesses."We are catching some hell", said Timothy Thomas, who rode out the storm with his wife in their second-floor apartment in Panama City Beach.

A month after Hurricane Florence's epic deluge, SC officials are more concerned about tornadoes than flooding from Michael.

Michael could dump up to a foot (30 centimeters) of rain over some Panhandle communities before it sweeps through the Southeast and goes back out to sea by way of the mid-Atlantic states over the next few days.

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