Science

Hurricane Michael gains strength, takes aim at north Florida

Hurricane Michael gains strength, takes aim at north Florida

Here's what to know about Hurricane Michael, the storm's path, when it's supposed to make landfall and just how risky it's expected to be.

Hurricane Michael strengthened overnight into a risky category 4 hurricane, and is headed for Florida - the strongest storm to ever hit the Florida Panhandle.

Hurricane Michael's approach continued early Wednesday as it trundled north toward the northwestern Florida, a region largely shut down by evacuation orders, storm warnings and fears of what the system could bring.

More than 300 miles of coastline from Mobile, AL, through the Florida Panhandle and Big Bend area are threatened, according to the NHC. Michael is projected to plow into Florida's Panhandle at midday on Wednesday, unleashing potentially devastating waves as high as 13 feet (4 meters) that could rush inland for miles around the storm's center, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) warned. Weakening is expected after the storm makes landfall.

State officials issued disaster declarations in Alabama and Georgia, both of which are also expected to feel the impact from the storm. The National Hurricane Center forecast up to 30cm of rain in Florida, Georgia and SC.

Residents and officials alike have said they were surprised by how quickly the storm came together, particularly compared to the much slower approach of recent hurricanes like Irma previous year and Florence last month in the Carolinas.

Florida State University said its campuses in Tallahassee and Panama City will be closed from Tuesday to Friday.

As the Florida Panhandle braces for the most powerful storm to hit its shores in more than a century, Gov. Rick Scott issued dire, final warnings to those still along the coast: it is too late to get out. A state of emergency was declared in Alabama.

Officials warned the storm could strengthen even more before making landfall along the Florida Panhandle later Wednesday. "You can not hide from storm surge, so get out if an evacuation is ordered".




At 8 a.m., it was centered about 90 miles southwest of Panama City with top winds of 145 mph and moving at 13 mph.

Top sustained winds were reported to be near 140 miles per hour at 5am. This is an extremely risky Category 4 storm.

President Donald Trump, who was in Orlando delivering an address to a global association of police chiefs, said the federal government was ready and urged residents to be prepared for the worst.

Governor Scott warned in a news conference that Hurricane Michael was a "massive storm that could bring total devastation to parts of our state, especially in the panhandle".

But the storm's center and where it makes landfall with its destructive winds represent just one of several concerns.

Forecasters said parts of Florida's marshy, lightly populated Big Bend area - the crook of Florida's elbow - could see up to 12 feet of storm surge.

"That means the water will come miles inshore and could easily be over the roofs of houses", Scott said.

"The last thing we need is more water", said Carolyn Causey, business manager of the Trinity United Methodist Church in Conway, South Carolina. A total of 237 US flights had been cancelled as of Wednesday morning, according to FlightAware, with many clustered in the Florida area.


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