Florida braces for lethal floods as hurricane nears

Panovich: Hurricane Michael will bring heavy rain to the Carolinas

Panovich: Hurricane Michael will bring heavy rain to the Carolinas

According to NOAA's National Hurricane Center, Michael "is expected to move inland over the Florida Panhandle or Florida Big Bend area on Wednesday, and then move northeastward across the southeastern United States Wednesday night, Oct. 10 and Thursday, Oct. 11".

Mandatory evacuation orders went into effect Tuesday morning for some 120,000 people in Panama City Beach and across other low-lying parts of the coast.

Michael's core, with maximum sustained winds of 110 mph, was about 335 miles south of Panama City, Florida, as of 2 p.m. ET Tuesday, the National Hurricane Center said.

It is the strongest storm to threaten North Florida in a decade, a fast-moving hurricane fueled by the gulfs warm waters and aiming toward land with wind speeds of almost 125 miles per hour and a potential storm surge of up to 13 feet.

Some areas along the state's Big Bend area could see risky storm surge between six and 12 feet as Michael nears, the Hurricane Center reported.

With Hurricane Florence still fresh in the minds of North Carolinians, Gov. Roy Cooper urged state residents to prepare for another storm.

Computer models from the National Hurricane Center and the National Weather Service were showing little change throughout the day with Michael's center of circulation preparing to come ashore Wednesday afternoon and into the evening. Most of the rain was blamed on a low-pressure system off the Pacific coast, but Hurricane Michael in the Caribbean could have also contributed. "We can rebuild your home, but we cannot rebuild your life", Scott said.

"The impact will be storm surge, very heavy rain and strong, gusty winds as it makes landfall", Bridges said.

Michael was forecast to have the power to uproot trees, block roads and knock out power for days by the time it hits Florida on Wednesday. A storm surge watch is in effect for the Anclote River to Anna Maria Island, including Tampa Bay, and for the Alabama-Florida border to the Okaloosa-Walton County line.

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 US mainland landfall on Wednesday afternoon.

Panovich: Hurricane Michael will bring heavy rain to the Carolinas
Tropical storm warning issued for Midlands ahead of Hurricane Michael | News & Observer

Florida Panhandle or the Florida Big Bend area.

As of 8 a.m. Tuesday, Michael was churning with 100 miles per hour winds.

As rains from the powerful storm started to reach the Panhandle on Tuesday afternoon, about 15,000 workers lined up by Gulf Power, Duke Energy Florida, Florida Power & Light and public utilities have been positioned to respond to anticipated widespread outages.

Tallahassee´s Democratic Mayor Andrew Gillum, who is campaigning to succeed Scott as governor in next month´s elections, suspended his campaign and returned to the state capital to oversee storm preparations.

Scott on Monday expanded a state of emergency to a total of 35 Florida counties, the news release said.

Michael also could dump up to a foot of rain over some Panhandle communities before it sweeps into Georgia.

With a number of counties ordering evacuations, Scott waived highway tolls in the northwest part of the state. In fact, this time previous year, Hurricane Nate also formed within a gyre in the Caribbean.

Previous year saw a string of catastrophic storms batter the western Atlantic - including Irma, Maria and Hurricane Harvey - causing a record-equaling $125 billion in damage when it flooded the Houston metropolitan area. "The state is not taking this storm lightly and neither should any family".

The threat of rising water prompted Pasco County emergency officials to recommend voluntary evacuations for residents west of USA 19 vulnerable to potential storm surge, special needs residents and anyone in low-lying areas.

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