‘Monstrous’ Hurricane Michael leaves Florida and Alabama bracing for impact

Pat Wise
October 11, 2018

Neighboring Florida Gov. Rick Scott issued a state of emergency on Sunday to 35 counties, and mandatory evacuations were ordered for residents of the state's barrier islands, mobile homes and low-lying coastal areas in Gulf, Wakulla and Bay counties.

- The latest forecast update from the National Hurricane Center has Michael set to come ashore around the Florida Panhandle as a Category 3 storm as officials in North Carolina are preparing for soaking rains and gusty winds that could uproot trees and knock down power lines around the Triangle.

Florida State University campuses in Tallahassee and Panama City plan to close Tuesday through Friday.

Michael was now a Category 1 hurricane but could become a Category 3 storm by Tuesday on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale, with winds of at least 100 miles per hour (160 km per hour).

Given the warm, open Gulf water and relatively low influence of wind shear on the system, the NHC is warning that Michael will become a category four storm by the time it makes landfall on the Florida Panhandle on Wednesday.

The storm is expected to be a Category 2 when it makes landfall, according to the National Hurricane Center, though forecasters haven't ruled out the possibility of it being a Category 3 storm.

As Hurricane Michael plows up the Gulf of Mexico to smack the Florida Panhandle, forecasters expect South Florida to get sideswiped by some extra wind and rain atop the usual for this time of year.

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More than 45 per cent of the nation's refining capacity is located along the US Gulf Coast, which also is home to 51 per cent of total US natural gas processing capability.

In the Caribbean, a hurricane warning is in effect for the Cuban province of Pinar del Rio. Our southwestern counties could even see hurricane force wind gusts of over 74 miles per hour. In a Monday afternoon update, forecasters said winds have increased to almost 80 miles per hour (129 kph) as the storm moves north at almost 9 miles per hour (14 kph).

Also Monday, Gov. Kay Ivey in neighboring Alabama signed an emergency declaration for her entire state, in anticipation of widespread power outages, wind damage and heavy rain. Governor Ivey is also directing the appropriate state agencies to exercise their statutory authority to assist the communities and entities affected by the storm.

"Today it is about life and safety", Gillum said.

Storm surge watches stretch all the way from Pensacola to Tampa, Florida, with maximum storm surge projections now exceeding twelve feet in some locations. Once the storm and cold front pass, it now looks like we'll see some actual cooler air with highs next weekend expected to stay in the 60s.

Michael is a completely different storm compared to Hurricane Florence, so the impacts will be different.

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