Hurricane Michael strengthened into a Category 4 storm as it moved toward the Florida Panhandle, where it could blow ashore as the strongest storm to hit the United States this year.
Forecasters on Wednesday morning upgraded Hurricane Michael to an “extremely unsafe Category 4” storm.
Michael is expected to make landfall to Florida’s Big Bend area sometime Wednesday, with “destructive winds” blowing at more than 100 miles per hour.
“Unfortunately, Hurricane Michael is a hurricane of the worst kind”, FEMA Administrator William “Brock” Long said at a news briefing Wednesday morning.
Scott stressed in the days leading up to the storm that evacuation decisions were made by local officials, though Maul, the state emergency head, sent a letter to legislators and local officials Monday night criticizing local preparedness efforts. Forecasters said it also could bring 3 to 6 inches of rain, enough to trigger flash flooding in places still recovering from Hurricane Florence.
In terms of wind intensity, that would make it stronger than Hurricane Florence, which had winds of 90 miles per hour when it blew ashore in North Carolina last month.
About 3.7 million people are under hurricane warnings in the Panhandle and Big Bend regions, along with parts of southeastern Alabama and southern Georgia. I actually expect the rainfall from that storm to stay out to sea, although it could clip Nantucket Friday.
Florida officials have been urging residents in the storm’s path to take precautions, not the least of which is Gov. Rick Scott (R), who’s warning people not to go outside if they haven’t already evacuated.
Hurricane Michael is set to make landfall over the Florida Panhandle on Wednesday, the NHC predicts.
“Storm surge is the No. 1 problem that you can see from these storms”.
At 5 a.m., the centre of the hurricane was bearing down on a stretch of the Florida Panhandle, still about 140 miles (225 kilometres) from Panama City and 130 miles (209 kilometres) from Apalachicola, but moving relatively fast at 13 mph (21 kph).
In addition to evacuation plans, Scott requested and was granted a pre-landfall emergency declaration from President Donald Trump, according to a statement from his offie.
The sinister-looking skull appeared briefly on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration satellite images on Tuesday as the hurricane moved closer to the Florida Panhandle. There are specific protocols to its possible closure: Panama City Mayor Greg Brudnicki told CNN on Tuesday that officials will close the bridge when winds reach 50 miles per hour and stay that strong for longer than two minutes.
“This storm will bring torrential rain, heavy winds and risky storm surges to many areas of our state”, he tweeted. Airbnb is offering free shelter to evacuees in some parts of Florida, Georgia and Alabama.
Most waterfront homes stood vacant in Keaton Beach, which forecasters said could get some of the highest water – seas up 9 feet (2.75 meters) above ground level. A tropical storm watch has been issued from South Santee River South Carolina to Duck North Carolina, including Pamlico and Albemarle Sounds.
Mr Scott warned that he may order more evacuations due to the size of the potential storm surge.
“We’ve told those who stayed to have their life jackets on when the storm comes”, Tress Dameron, Franklin County emergency management coordinator, told The News Herald in Panama City.