'We've Never Seen Anything Like It in the Panhandle': Monstrous Hurricane Michael Set to Strike Florida
12 October, 2018, 19:45
An estimated 120,000 people along the Florida Panhandle were ordered to clear out on Tuesday as Hurricane Michael rapidly picked up steam in the Gulf of Mexico and closed in with winds of 110 miles per hour and a potential storm surge of 12 feet.
The heavy waters will form part of the most powerful storm to strike the Panhandle in at least a decade.
Once it reaches land, Michael is forecast to weaken into a tropical storm when it passes through the East Coast, including the New York City area, by Friday morning. "The time to prepare is now".
In North Carolina, still reeling from the destruction of Hurricane Florence last month, Gov. Roy Cooper warned that Michael could bring moderate storm surge, downed trees and power outages to his sodden state.
A storm surge is "the abnormal rise in seawater level during a storm", the National Ocean Service says. The storm will then move across the eastern Gulf of Mexico later Tuesday into the night. US producers in the Gulf cut oil production by about 40 percent and natural gas output by 28 percent on Tuesday, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement said. The partial shutdown ahead of Michael helped push oil prices slightly higher on Tuesday.
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.
U.S. emergency organisation The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) had scrambled teams ready to act in Florida, said FEMA spokesman Jeff Byard.
President Trump has approved Florida's declaration of emergency.
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In Panhandle counties, most state offices, schools and universities were closed for the rest of the week. Lines at gasoline stations grew as people left. Residents also stocked up on food, water and gas.
Michael was about 180 miles (290 kilometers) southwest of Panama City, Florida. Cuban authorities said they evacuated about 400 people from low-lying areas.
Michael also could dump up to a foot (30 centimeters) of rain over some Panhandle communities before it sweeps through the Southeast and goes out to sea over the next few days.
Hurricane Florence - which wreaked havoc when it struck north and SC last month - only reached landfall speeds of 90mph.
"I've had to take antacids I'm so sick to my stomach today because of this impending catastrophe", National Hurricane Center scientist Eric Blake tweeted as the storm - drawing energy from the unusually warm, 84-degree Gulf waters - became more menacing.
Torrential downpours and flash flooding from the storm over the weekend caused 13 deaths in Central America.
According to the 10 a.m. advisory from the National Hurricane Center, Michael's winds had increased to 110 miles per hour and the central pressure was down to 965 millibars.
Storm surge inundation of 3-9 feet is forecast for the Florida Panhandle coastline with the most severe surge expected on coastal areas between Panama City and Perry, Florida. Hurricane conditions are possible within the hurricane watch area by Wednesday.
It developed into a hurricane on Monday, and by today, more than 140,000 people were under mandatory evacuation orders. Roy Cooper said, adding, "A number of homes have rooftop tarps that could be damaged or blown away with this wind".
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