Hurricane Michael Strengthens as it Takes Aim at Florida's Panhandle

by Jessica Montevago
Hurricane Michael Strengthens as it Takes Aim at Florida's Panhandle


Florida’s panhandle is on alert as Hurricane Michael continues to strengthen, as it moves across the Gulf of Mexico.

The Category 2 storm has maximum sustained winds of 100 mph, the National Hurricane Center said, threatening dangerous storm surge, damaging winds, and life-threatening flash flooding to more than 300 miles of coastline from Florida through the southeastern U.S.

A hurricane warning is in place from the Alabama-Florida border to the Suwannee River in Florida; a hurricane watch is in effect for the coast of Alabama.

Hurricane Michael is expected to become a Category 3 hurricane when it makes landfall on Wednesday, bringing a dangerous storm surge of 9 to 12 feet to the coast from roughly Apalachicola to Cedar Key. Heavy rain, up to 12 inches, could fall in Florida's Panhandle and Big Bend areas, southeastern Alabama and southern Georgia, the National Hurricane Center said. Parts of the Carolinas and southern Virginia could also see up to 6 inches of rain.

Florida’s Gov. Rick Scott warned residents that the “monstrous storm” will be “life-threatening and extremely dangerous,” and asked that they heed evacuation orders, which were issued along the Florida Panhandle. He has declared a state of emergency in 35 counties.

Airports have also begun to cease operations. The Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport said it will cease all operations beginning at 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday. Northwest Florida Beaches Airport, in Panama City, Florida has canceled 17 flights to and from the airport for Tuesday and another 14 on Wednesday, as of this morning, according to flight tracker FlightAware. 

As the storm churns toward Florida, western Cuba could be slammed with up to 12 inches of rain, threatening flash floods and mudslides. Over the weekend, flooding related to Michael led to at least 13 deaths in the Central American countries of Nicaragua, Honduras, and El Salvador, according to officials.

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