Hurricane Michael nears Florida Panhandle as Category 4 storm

Hurricane Michael nears Florida Panhandle as Category 4 storm

Forecasters say Hurricane Michael will strengthen into a major hurricane by late Tuesday as it continues on a risky path towards the southeastern USA state of Florida.

Hurricane Michael will make landfall along the Gulf Coast Wednesday as a Category 3 storm, according to the National Hurricane Center.

"Michael could produce three life-threatening hazards along portions of the northeastern Gulf Coast: storm surge, heavy rainfall, and hurricane-force winds, with storm surge and hurricane watches in effect", The NHC wrote in a recent tweet.

Scott said 500 Florida National Guard members were activated for planning, logistics and response, and 5,000 stood at the ready. Following Hurricane Irma past year, 14 people died when a South Florida nursing home lost power and air conditioning.

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". They worry that after Hurricane Florence, evacuation warnings might not be taken seriously.

In the small Panhandle city of Apalachicola, Mayor Van Johnson senior said the 2,300 residents are frantically preparing for a major strike.

By Monday evening, queues had formed at service stations and grocery stories as people sought emergency supplies even as the anticipated evacuations would be intensifying in coming hours.

Neighboring Florida Gov. Rick Scott issued a state of emergency on Sunday to 35 counties, and mandatory evacuations were ordered for residents of the state's barrier islands, mobile homes and low-lying coastal areas in Gulf, Wakulla and Bay counties. (The 11am ET forecast on Monday from the National Hurricane Center calls for 120mph winds for Michael at landfall).

In Maryland, it could bring heavy rains, which could lead to flooding.

"This storm has the potential to be a historic storm, please take heed", the sheriff's office said in the post.

High winds weren't the only danger. Michael is also expected to hit the Panhandle that day, with the potential to dump up to a foot of rain in the area.

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Neighbours in Alabama - the entire state is under an emergency declaration - also were bracing.

By 5pm. Monday, Michael's top sustained winds were around 80mph (129kph) as it headed north at 9mph (14.5kph). On the forecast track, the center of Michael will move northward near the western tip of Cuba this afternoon and into the southeastern Gulf of Mexico by tonight.

A hurricane warning is in effect for Pinar del Rio, Cuba, and a tropical storm warning is in effect for the Cuban province of the Isle of Youth and the coast of Mexico from Tulum to Cabo Catoche, including Cozumel.

Hurricane season is very much still here and today the 13th named storm of the 2018 hurricane season will be Michael. A couple breweries in the city offered free filtered water to anyone bringing in growlers, jugs or other containers.

"Today it is about life and safety", Gillum said.

For us here in the Tennessee Valley, the system could help enhance showers and storms in North Alabama mid-week, but significant impacts still look to be confined to the south and southeast.

Two years ago, Hurricane Hermine knocked out power for days in Tallahassee and caused widespread flooding as it came up through the Gulf coast.

"I don't want to lose everything in the freezer, but it is what is", said Beaver as she loaded sandbags into her family's pickup truck.

"We have never seen a storm like this in this part of our state", he said after the briefing.

Walton County, now charted to be on the western side of the storm, announced a mandatory evacuation Monday for all areas south of Choctawhatchee Bay and east to the county line.

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