Home Update News ‘Potentially catastrophic’ Hurricane Michael charges toward Florida Panhandle

‘Potentially catastrophic’ Hurricane Michael charges toward Florida Panhandle

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‘Potentially catastrophic’ Hurricane Michael charges toward Florida Panhandle


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Hurricane Michael is moving towards the Florida panhandle, where it is expected to hit midday Wednesday. Meteorologist Bobby Deskins has more details.
USA TODAY

Hard-charging Hurricane Michael, which has blossomed from a seemingly minor tropical storm off Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula into a mighty threat to some 300 miles of Florida’s coastline, could further strengthen Tuesday to Category 3 status.

The National Hurricane Center, citing Michael’s dangerous trifecta of storm surge, flash flooding and winds, described the seventh hurricane of the Atlantic season as “life-threatening,” and the Florida Division of Emergency Management warned on Twitter of the storm’s “rapid intensification” ahead of landfall. As of 2 a.m. EDT, Michael was moving north-northwest at 12 mph and positioned about 425 miles south of Apalachicola, Florida, with maximum sustained winds of 90 mph.

The National Hurricane Center said in an advisory at 5 a.m. ET that the storm was moving north-northwestward through the southern Gulf of Mexico, and that storm surge and hurricane warnings were in effect for the northeastern Gulf coast.

Tracker: Follow Hurricane Michael’s path

More: Hurricane Michael: The science of predicting landfall

Related: Hurricane Michael forces cruise ships on Western Caribbean itineraries to reroute

“It’s a big storm,” Florida Gov. Rick Scott said Monday night during a press conference at the Escambia County Emergency Operations Center near Pensacola. “It’s a massive storm. We haven’t seen anything like this in the Panhandle in decades.”

In its 11 p.m. Monday update, the National Weather Service in Tallahassee called Michael “a potentially catastrophic storm” and added, “Preparations should be completed no later than Tuesday morning.”

The hurricane center is already warning of storm surge up to 12 feet in some areas, plus heavy rainfall through Florida’s Panhandle and into Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina, and “tropical storm”-force winds.

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A hurricane warning was in effect for the Alabama-Florida border to the Suwannee River, with a hurricane watch in place from the Alabama-Florida border to the Mississippi-Alabama border.

On its current track, Michael will move across the eastern Gulf of Mexico throughout Tuesday and then move inland over the Panhandle or Big Bend area of Florida on Wednesday, according to the hurricane center. From there, Michael would move northeastward across the southeastern states on Wednesday night and Thursday.

Scott has already declared a state of emergency in 35 counties, and the Florida National Guard has activated 1,250 troops for planning, logistics and emergency response.

President Donald Trump, speaking Monday to the International Association of Chiefs of Police convention in Orlando, urged residents to heed local warnings and pledged the federal government’s support.

“Never ends, but we’re all prepared and hopefully it won’t be as bad as it’s looking,” Trump said. “It looked a couple of days ago like it was not going to be much, and now it’s looking like it could be a very big one, so we’re prepared. And good luck.”

Contributing: Melissa Nelson Gabriel and Kevin Robinson, Pensacola News Journal, USA TODAY Network.

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