Published: Wed, October 10, 2018
Science | By

Hurricane Michael to strengthen as it targets Gulf Coast

Hurricane Michael to strengthen as it targets Gulf Coast

Hurricane Michael was packing winds of up to 140 miles per hour (220 km per hour), hours before it was set to make landfall on Florida's Panhandle or Florida's Big Bend where it potentially could unleash devastating waves as high as 13 feet (4 meters), the National Hurricane Center (NHC) warned.

Residents of the U.S. state of Florida are boarding up homes and seeking evacuation routes away from Hurricane Michael, forecast to slam ashore midweek with life-threatening waves, winds and rains.

Winds of that magnitude can inflict substantial damage to roofs and walls of even well-constructed homes, according to the National Weather Service. Interests from southeast Louisiana to western Florida should prepare for the storm. Up to a foot of rainfall (30 cm) is forecast for some areas.

"If this storm hits near Panama City, the Tampa area will still see life threatening storm surge", Scott said.

The governor issued the warning after a briefing by Pasco's emergency personnel at the county's emergency operations center, the hotspot for county officials and first responders during and after a storm.

Producers in the US Gulf of Mexico on Tuesday cut oil production by about 40 per cent and natural gas output by 28 per cent as Michael approached the coast, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement said, citing reports from 27 companies. The partial shutdown ahead of Michael helped push oil prices slightly higher on Tuesday.

The hurricane was forecast to deliver as much as 30cm of rain in parts of Florida, Georgia and SC. Western Cuba was also forecast to get torrential rains.

The region should brace for "major infrastructure damage", specifically to electricity distribution, wastewater treatment systems and transportation networks, Jeff Byard, associate administrator for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), told reporters on a conference call. More than 5,000 National Guard soldiers have been put on alert.

Okaloosa County also has three sandbag locations open to the public at 1759 South Ferdon Crestview, 84 Ready Road NW in Fort Walton Beach and at The City of Destin Public Works office on Commons Drive in Destin. The category one hurricane is expected to affect parts of the state later this week.

In Panhandle counties, most state offices, schools and universities were closed for the rest of the week.

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, who is the Democratic nominee for governor, had planned to campaign in South Florida on Monday and Tuesday, but he said he would return to the city to help with storm preparations. The threat along the coast includes serious storm surge.

"I just got a crew that came in that are staying also and they're in here helping me get everything buttoned up, tightened down, getting the food secure", Givens said.

Bay County Public Works placed sand for bagging at Pete Edwards Field at 7300 McElvey Rd., Panama City Beach and at the Deer Point Dam located on the NW side.

The last major hurricane to hit the Panhandle was Hurricane Dennis in 2005, according to hurricane center data. A slight risk of severe weather has been outlined for central Georgia for today and tonight for the threat of spin-up tornadoes. However, forecasters always note it is not possible to say where a hurricane will land until it is closer to the coast.

Hurricane watches have been issued for the Alabama-Florida border, meaning hurricane conditions are expected within the next 48 hours as the storm continues to rapidly intensify. This is enough to cause some short-lived flash flooding prolems on Thursday, and possibly a some river flooding on Friday.

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