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Hurricane Michael expected to hit as Cat 3, 120,000+ evacuated in FL

Hurricane Michael as it heads for the Florida Panhandle as a Category 2 storm on Oct. 9, 2018. (NASA Worldview/Released)
October 09, 2018

Another hurricane is barreling in on the southeast United States, this time from the Gulf of Mexico.

Hurricane Michael, previously a tropical storm, increased to a strong Category 2 storm after it was fueled by the Gulf’s warm waters, the Associated Press reported Tuesday. It’s expected to make landfall on Wednesday.

As of Tuesday morning, the storm’s winds were approximately 110 m.p.h., just shy of a Category 3 storm. Hurricane-strength winds stretch 35 miles from the storm’s eye, while tropical storm-strength winds stretch 370 miles across.

The storm continues to increase in intensity, and is expected to make landfall as a Category 3. Even if it does not strengthen as expected, it’s current state is enough to pose significant danger.

The storm is moving north at 12 m.p.h. toward the Florida Panhandle, where 120,000 residents received mandatory evacuation orders.

“Michael could develop into a potentially catastrophic event for the northeastern Gulf Coast,” the Tallahassee-based National Weather Service office said, according to The Weather Channel.

It’s also predicted to be the strongest hurricane to make landfall in the Florida Panhandle in 13 years.

U.S. Geological Service research oceanographer Kara Doran said waves in the Gulf of Mexico were expected to climb up to 40 feet high. Waves of 16 to 20 feet could strike the Panhandle’s shorelines, eroding protective dunes.

Big Bend, a marshy area in the Panhandle, is expected to be slammed with storm surges of up to 12 feet.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency for 35 counties in the Panhandle and along Florida’s western coast down to Tampa Bay.

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal declared a state of emergency for 92 counties. “The state is mobilizing all available resources to ensure public safety ahead of Hurricane Michael,” said Deal, according to 13 WMAZ. “In light of the storm’s forecasted track, I encourage Georgians in the affected counties to be prepared and remain vigilant.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey also declared a state of emergency for all 67 counties. “Alabama is once again in the path of a hurricane, but I know Alabamians will once again come together and be prepared for whatever Michael may bring,” Ivey said, according to Fox News.

Schools and universities in Florida, Alabama, and Georgia have closed or canceled classes until Thursday, the Associated Press reported.

FEMA has been tweeting frequently to warn of the risks associated with the hurricane, and to encourage evacuation.

“If you’re told to evacuate for Hurricane #Michael, leave NOW. Today is the last day to travel before storm conditions start. Storm surge is deadly, take it seriously,” the agency tweeted.

Hundreds of National Guard troops have been deployed, along with search and rescue teams, and other agencies to prepare a coordinated effort.