Thursday, 13 December, 2018

Hurricane Michael gains strength, takes aim at north Florida

Tracking Michael What You Need to Know Weather forecast: PM thunderstorms expected
Elijah Vega | 10 October, 2018, 00:58

After striking Florida, Michael is forecast to move up the East Coast on Wednesday and Thursday ploughing through the Carolinas, still recovering from Hurricane Florence last month.

Thousands of Florida residents have been ordered to leave their homes as Hurricane Michael heads for the state's coast.

The alert came after the tropical storm system strengthened to a Category 1 hurricane, packing maximum sustained winds late Monday of 85 miles (140 kilometers) per hour, the Miami-based National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.

Previous year saw a string of catastrophic storms batter the western Atlantic - including Irma, Maria and Hurricane Harvey - causing a record-equalling $125bn in damage when it flooded the Houston metropolitan area. The storm's center is expected to move inland over the Florida Panhandle or Florida Big Ben area today before moving northeastward across the southeastern USA tonight and tomorrow morning. The whirlwind hurricane continues to pick up speed, and The National Weather Service in Tallahassee called Michael "potentially catastrophic".

The National Hurricane Centre (NHC) said a "life-threatening storm surge" was expected along much of the coast of the Florida Panhandle.

"This storm can kill you", Scott said. "As Hurricane Michael nears landfall, we are working with state and local officials in Florida to take all necessary precautions", Trump said on Monday.

A storm surge watch is in effect for Anclote River in Florida to Anna Maria Island in Florida, including Tampa Bay. Five drilling rigs were moved out of the storm's path, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement said.

Michael is forecast to produce life-threatening flash flooding from the Panhandle and Big Bend through portions of the Carolinas through Thursday, with 10 inches of rain forecast across parts of the Panhandle. Hurricane-force winds extended outward up to 35 miles (56 kilometers) from the core and tropical-storm-force winds out 175 miles (280 kilometers).

"You can not hide from storm surge", Florida Gov. Rick Scott warned at a news conference Tuesday. "Do not think you can survive it", Scott said.

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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).

"We are running out of time", Scott said in a post on Twitter. "Current projections show large swaths of storm surge greater than nine feet above ground forecast across the region".

Shannon remembers how previous hurricanes knocked out power in Florida's capital city, so he knows what's possible with Michael.

Eric O'Neal and his wife, Mariana, watch the waves as Hurricane Michael approaches land in Pensacola, Fla., on October 9.

When winds reach 119km/h (74mph), it is known as a hurricane - in the Atlantic and Eastern Pacific - or a typhoon in the Western Pacific. High surf warnings were in effect already at the Alabama coast.

A Royal Caribbean cruise ship, Empress of the Seas, got caught in the outer bands of Hurricane Michael. Residents also lined up to buy gas and groceries even as evacuations - both voluntary and mandatory - were expected to pick up the pace Tuesday.

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

Forecasters said parts of Florida's marshy, lightly populated Big Bend area - the crook of Florida's elbow - could see up to 12 feet (3.7 meters) of storm surge.

That's when Maryland could see the first remnants of the storm. It is expected to become a hurricane by Tuesday.

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