Published: Wed, October 10, 2018
Science | By Celia Watts

US Gulf Coast bracing for ‘monstrous’ Hurricane Michael

US Gulf Coast bracing for ‘monstrous’ Hurricane Michael

If the National Hurricane Center wind forecast for Michael verifies, landfalling winds of 125mph would tie the hurricane with 1975's Eloise and an 1882 Pensacola hurricane for the most intense storms to strike the Panhandle on record.

In its 8 a.m. ET report Tuesday, the National Hurricane Center reported the Category 2 storm with winds of 100 mph was 395 miles south of Panama City, FL.

Previous year saw a string of catastrophic storms batter the western Atlantic - including Irma, Maria and Hurricane Harvey - causing a record-equaling US$125 billion in damage when it flooded the Houston metropolitan area.

Forecasters warned that Michael could ultimately dump a foot (30 centimeters) of rain in western Cuba, triggering flash floods and mudslides in mountain areas.

Hurricane Michael is threatening more than 300 miles of the Gulf Coast, prompting emergency declarations in more than 35 counties from Mobile, Alabama through the Florida Panhandle and into the state's Big Bend region. Parts of the state are under tropical storm watches or warnings.

"Hurricane Michael is a massive storm that could bring total devastation to parts of our state, especially in the Panhandle", said Florida Gov. Rick Scott in a Monday press conference.

The heaviest rain will tend to fall in areas that were missed by Florence and focused from the Florida Panhandle to southwestern and central Georgia to part of central SC. As Michael moves inland, southern Georgia and southeastern Alabama can expect damaging winds, too. By that time, Michael is forecast to have winds of 125 miles per hour. Because he owns two businesses in the area, Givens, who lives inland, said he was not evacuating. "Take care of them", Scott said. As Michael nears landfall, we're sharing all you need to know about the impending storm.

Michael wasn't quite done wreaking havoc in the Caribbean on Tuesday. Many filled sandbags and boarded up homes and lined up to buy gas and groceries before leaving town.

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). Heavy rain, storm surge, and downed trees and power lines are also expected along Florida's western coast.

Scott on Sunday issued an order for a state of emergency for 26 counties to rush preparations in the Panhandle and the Big Bend area, freeing up resources and activating 500 members of the Florida National Guard ahead of Tropical Storm Michael.

In Volusia County, emergency management director Jim Judge said residents are looking at "breezy conditions, some rain and potentially a couple of good gusts through the squalls". Forecasters also warned spinoff tornadoes would also be a threat.

Since the Sunshine State has been battered by so many hurricanes, including the destructive Hurricane Andrew in 1992, Floridians are better prepared to handle flooding than virtually any other state.

Hurricane Michael grew stronger Tuesday as it roared toward Florida's Gulf Coast, gaining Category 2 status and threatening to wreak historic devastation on a state walloped by Hurricane Irma's historic rage 13 months ago.

In Georgia, Gov. Nathan Deal declared a preemptive state of emergency for 92 counties.

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