Published: Wed, October 10, 2018
Global | By Enrique Rogers

Moving Hurricane Michael menaces Florida Panhandle

Moving Hurricane Michael menaces Florida Panhandle

Now, battling wind shear but emerging in the Gulf of Mexico, it's a strengthening hurricane, with winds up to 110 miles per hour as of 11 a.m. Tuesday.

Now ranked as a category-1 storm on the five-step Saffir-Simpson wind scale, Michael could grow into a category-3 storm, with the power to uproot trees, block roads and knock out power for days by the time it hits Florida on Wednesday.

A hurricane warning covered the Alabama-Florida border east to the Suwannee River. "Residents and businesses in coastal Alabama must be vigilant and closely monitor the storm's path and be prepared for a major hurricane".

Forecasters said parts of Florida's marshy, lightly populated Big Bend area - the crook of Florida's elbow - could see up to 12 feet of storm surge.

Michael is the seventh hurricane of the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season.

Tens of thousands of Floridians were warned on Tuesday to get out of harm's way as Hurricane Michael churned over the Gulf of Mexico toward the northwestern part of the state, bringing fierce winds, torrential rain and life-threatening coastal floods.

About 120,000 residents were under mandatory evacuation orders in Bay County in the panhandle, a low-lying area of beachfront resorts and retirement communities.

The consensus of the various meteorological models is that the track of Michael will cross the state southeast of Laurens County, but the county is well within the storm's so-called "cone of uncertainty".

Michael will be first major hurricane to strike the Florida Panhandle since Hurricane Dennis in 2005.

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"We're looking at a significant storm with significant impact, possibly greater than I've seen in my 59 years of life", Johnson said of his city on the shore of Apalachicola Bay, which where about 90 percent of Florida's oysters are harvested.

The forecast for Hurricane Michael changed little overnight with the National Hurricane Center having it make landfall between Fort Walton Beach and the Big Bend region tomorrow. All told, over 100 counties throughout multiple states have received emergency declarations, and this CNN clip shows the storm's frightening approach on radar.

"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's trek to Florida is also affecting politics in the state.

The sheriff's office says Wakulla County shelters were rated safe only for hurricanes below that threshold.

Although Michael will produce heavy rain showers, the storm's accelerating forward movement should allow those downpours to move through and not over-saturate most areas. According to the hurricane center, hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 45 miles from the center of Michael, and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 175 miles. Up to eight inches of storm surge is possible in Citrus County, and up to six inches in Pasco County.

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, Florida's Democratic nominee for governor, filled sandbags with residents and urged the state capital's residents to finish emergency preparations quickly.

For residents who want to leave, local authorities are stressing timely evacuation, too.

Roads could be blocked, trees uprooted and power cut for days in what could be the strongest storm seen in the region since Hurricane Dennis in 2005.

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