300 miles of Florida coastline on hurricane alert

Michael strengthens into a hurricane forecast to become Cat 3 by Tuesday
Michael strengthens into a hurricane forecast to become Cat 3 by Tuesday

10 October, 2018

Of the elderly and infirm patients, Scott had a blunt message for their caregivers: "If you're responsible for a patient, you're responsible for the patient".

"If you don't follow warnings from officials this storm could kill you", said the Republican governor, who is campaigning for a U.S. Senate seat in the November congressional elections. "So my expectation is everybody gets taken care of".

Authorities told tens of thousands of residents and tourists in at least 20 Florida counties to evacuate coastal areas along the 200-mile (322 km) long Panhandle and Big Bend region. The storm could inundate more than one-fourth of that coast's dunes, causing flooding behind the protective dune line, said Kara Doran, leader of the USGS Coastal Change Hazards Storm Team.

"This storm will be life-threatening and extremely unsafe", Scott said on Sunday. "If you live along some of these rivers, you have to think the waters are going to come up there. Persons located within these areas should take all necessary actions to protect life and property from rising water and the potential for other unsafe conditions", the hurricane center said. He added, "Today it is about life and safety".

But despite that, Michael has the potential to become a major hurricane, possibly a Category 3.

Gov. Rick Scott called Michael a "monstrous storm" that could bring "total devastation" in and around the Panhandle area.

In neighbouring Alabama, Gov. Kay Ivey signed an emergency declaration for her entire state Monday in anticipation of widespread power outages, wind damage and heavy rain from the storm getting set to cross the eastern Gulf of Mexico in coming hours.

The governor warned the hurricane is expected to strengthen to a Category 3 storm when it makes landfall Wednesday. Some southern Alabama counties were under a tropical storm watch Monday afternoon.

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On its current track, it would hit land somewhere along a coastline that includes the cities and towns of Fort Walton Beach, Panama City Beach, Port St. Joe, St. Teresa and the wildlife reserves bordering Apalachee Bay. Forecasters warned of up to a foot (30 centimeters) of rain in western Cuba, triggering flash floods and mudslides in mountain areas.

Hurricane warnings blanketed much of northeastern Florida, from the Suwanee River to the Alabama border. Some of Michael's moisture will be drawn northward, meaning periods of rain for us Thursday. Needless to say, the storm will have serious consequences for Florida (and downstream states such as Georgia) during the remainder of this week.

Energy companies halted almost a fifth of Gulf of Mexico oil production and moved staff from 10 platforms on Monday as Michael was forecast to become the strongest of three named storms to affect the US Gulf of Mexico this year.

By the time it reaches Florida on Wednesday local time, it is expected to be a category three hurricane with winds of more than 100mph and storm surges of up to 12ft (3.7 metres). Its center is located 500 miles south of Appalachicola and is moving north at 9mph. Winds this strong will be confined to the ring around its calm eye, known as the eyewall, and "devastating" wind damage could occur in this narrow zone.

Tropical storm warnings were issued for the coasts of Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. He also has declared a state of emergency for 35 counties and asked President Donald Trump for assistance ahead of the storm.

Michael is projected to strike an area that is exceptionally prone to storm surge because of the adjacent shallow shelf water and the concave shape of the coast.

While Florence took five days between the time it turned into a hurricane and the moment it blew ashore in the Carolinas, Michael gave Florida what could amount to just two days' notice.

Mandatory evacuation orders were issued to about 120,000 people living in Panama City, Fla., and across other low-lying parts of the coast as the storm nears.

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