Thursday, 18 October, 2018

Michael strengthens to Category 2 hurricane; expected to intensify

Hurricane Michael European model National Hurricane Center
Doris Mccormick | 10 October, 2018, 02:31

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 USA mainland landfall on Wednesday afternoon.

The National Weather Service is now warning that Michael is a "potentially catastrophic" weather event, which could result in "the strongest hurricane to landfall" upon Florida's Panhandle in over a decade.

"It's definitely coming through an area that doesn't need more rain", Kimball said.

Rain chances stand at 60 percent in Orlando on Tuesday and Wednesday before jumping to 70 percent on Thursday. Tropical storm watches are in effect in some coastal areas of Mississippi, Florida, Georgia and SC. The storm also is expected to contribute to generally rainy conditions through Thursday.

The good news, however, is that cooler, drier weather is in store.

About 3.7 million people are under hurricane warnings - in the Panhandle and Big Bend regions as well as parts of southeastern Alabama and southern Georgia.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott expanded a state of emergency declaration Tuesday to include 35 counties in preparation for the storm. "This thing came up fast and it wasn't like Irma where we had quite a bit of time to prepare". After Hurricane Irma previous year, 14 people died when a South Florida nursing home lost power and air conditioning.

He also warned caregivers at north Florida hospitals and nursing homes to do all possible to assure the safety of the elderly and infirm.

Either way, residents should "be prepared like you would with any approaching storm", he said.

There will be no shelters open in Wakulla County, the sheriff's office warned on Facebook, because they are rated safe only for hurricanes with top sustained winds below 111 miles per hour (178 kph).

The highest concern for damaging winds, of course, is near the center of the storm.

As of 5 a.m. ET, Michael's center was about 420 miles south of Panama City, Florida and 390 miles south of Apalachicola, Florida.

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The neighbouring state of Alabama has declared a state of emergency.

In Alabama, Gov. Kay Ivey issued a statewide state of emergency, saying on Twitter that it was "in anticipation of wide-spread power outages, wind damage and debris produced by high winds & heavy rain associated with #HurricaneMichael".

On Monday and Tuesday, the storm has taken advantage of low wind shear-allowing it to maintain a tight circulation and organized vertical structure-as well as warm, late-summer waters in the Gulf of Mexico to intensify. The storm was centered about 390 miles (627 kilometers) south of Apalachicola and 420 miles (675 kilometers) south of Panama City, Florida.

Forecasters have warned heavy rain could spark the same kind of life-threatening flash flooding in the Big Bend, Panhandle, Georgia and SC and have continued to warn Michael's storm surge is the most serious threat to the coast as the bend in the coastline traps destructive waves.

Producing heavy rainfall and strong winds, Michael is moving north-northwestward at 12 miles per hour. Doran leads the agency's Coastal Change Hazards Storm Team in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Forecasters say Hurricane Michael will strengthen into a major hurricane by late Tuesday as it continues on a unsafe path towards the southeastern USA state of Florida.

A large mound of sand in Tallahassee was whittled down to a small pile within hours Monday as residents filled sandbags against potential flooding. A couple breweries in the city offered free filtered water to anyone bringing in jugs or other containers.

"There's nothing between us and this storm but warm water and I think that's what terrifies us about the potential impacts". Local authorities fear power outages and major tree damage from Michael.

Hurricane Michael satellite as of October 9, 2018.

Farther west along Florida's Panhandle, the city of Pensacola tweeted to residents, "Be sure you have your emergency plan in place".

Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan warned residents during a news conference Monday evening that first responders won't be able to reach them during the storm or immediately after.

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