Hurricane Hurricane Michael could be worst in decades: Florida governor

Published 10 October 2018

Hurricane Michael is intensifying into a Category 4 storm as it speeds toward Panama City on the Florida Panhandle. Heavy rains and strong winds have started after tens of thousands of residents evacuated. Experts had been warning residents to evacuate – but at about 11:00 am Wednesday, Florida authorities said that those residents who had not yet evacuated should barricade themselves in their homes. Falling trees, collapsed powerlines, and rising water would likely strand residents on the road if they left their homes now, so they would be safer staying put.

Hurricane Michael is intensifying into a Category 4 storm as it speeds toward Panama City on the Florida Panhandle. Heavy rains and strong winds have started after tens of thousands of residents evacuated.

The hurricane could cause “devastating damage” along the Florida Panhandle when it makes landfall later on Wednesday, the state’s governor, Rick Scott, warned.

With winds of up to 145 mph – and threatening to reach 160 mph — experts warned that Michael could strengthen into a massive Category 4 hurricane by the time it blows ashore at about 8 pm EST.

Storm surges of between 9 and 14 feet have been forecast for  areas.

Scott said Michael could be the worst storm in decades to hit Florida Panhandle.

Rick Knabb, the former head of the Miami-based National Hurricane Center (NHC), urged residents to evacuate immediately and avoid seeking shelter in high-rise buildings.

Experts had been warning residents to evacuate – but at about 11:00 am Wednesday, Florida authorities said that those residents who had not yet evacuated should barricade themselves in their homes. Falling trees, collapsed powerlines, and rising water would likely strand residents on the road if they left their homes now, so they would be safer staying put.

DW reports that as many as 180,000 residents were ordered to evacuate their homes. Most evacuations were ordered from Bay County in the panhandle, a low-lying area made up mostly of resorts and retirement communities.

National Hurricane Center spokesman Dennis Feltgen said “we are in new territory with now Hurricane Michael and its 130 mph sustained winds,” adding that Bay County was the likely “ground zero” for the hurricane on Wednesday afternoon.

The outer bands of the storm were beginning to reach the Gulf Coast at 7am local time, with some of the worst storm surge expected to hit Florida’s Tyndall Air Force Base.

According to the NHC, some parts of Florida could see storm surges of up to 13 feet and up to a foot of rain.

The storm is expected to weaken as it moves up into the southeastern United States.

Still, state officials have also issued a disaster declaration for Alabama and Georgia. The Carolinas, meanwhile, are still reeling from Hurricane Florence, which killed dozens and caused billions of dollars in damage last month.

Experts note, though, that when Florence barreled towards the Carolinas, residents had five days’ notice from the time it had turned into a hurricane and the moment it hit. Michael’s increasing strength effectively gave locals in Florida just two days’ notice.

Last year saw an array of devastating storms batter the western Atlantic, including Irma, Maria, and Harvey. Houston’s metropolitan area suffered a record-equaling $125 billion in damage.

Climate scientists have long warned that the effects of global warming make storms more destructive and point to last year’s string of as evidence.

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