Hurricane Michael Is Strengthening And Taking Aim At The Florida Panhandle

FIRST TO ALERT Tracking Michael

A tropical storm watch is now in effect along the southeastern coast of the United States from Fernandina Beach, Florida to South Santee River, South Carolina. "It's started to slow down and strengthen out there in the Gulf and now we are looking at the possibility of a major hurricane hitting us dead on", he said.

Michael is projected to plough into Florida's panhandle at midday on Wednesday, unleashing potentially devastating waves of seawater as high as 3.6m that could rush inland for miles around the storm's centre, the National Hurricane Centre (NHC) warned.

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. "Again, Hurricane Michael is forecast to be the most destructive storm to hit the Florida Panhandle in decades".

Jeanna Hittinger, an administrator at the Heritage Healthcare Center in Tallahassee, said that her facility was reviewing several portions of their emergency management plan ahead of Wednesday's storm: "People that need dialysis early, batteries for our BiPAP [respiratory] machines".

After crossing the Florida panhandle midweek, Michael is also expected to soak Tennessee and swaths of the Mid-Atlantic, including Virginia and Maryland, later this week.

The National Hurricane center continues to monitor Hurricane Michael.

Mandatory evacuation orders were issued for residents of barrier islands, mobile homes and low-lying coastal areas in Gulf, Wakulla and Bay counties.

"Steady to rapid strengthening is forecast during the next day or so", the NHC said Monday.

"When you're staring at a Category 2 or 3 there's no such thing as a good side", Goldberg said. Throughout the Panhandle, bag after bag is being filled with sand, as wary homeowners like Mark Schneider brace for the worst. "Hopefully we will have no one hurt and no loss of life".

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Freeport High School in Walton County was also scheduled to open as a shelter at 7 a.m. Tuesday, in addition to the Guy Thompson Community Center in Santa Rosa County at 1 p.m.

Ann Beaver was among the many city residents who lost power that time - and braced for a similar experience to come.

"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.

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, Florida's Democratic nominee for governor, had planned to campaign in South Florida on Monday and Tuesday, but instead threw himself into helping his city's residents fill sandbags and get their storm preparations completed.

By 5 p.m. Monday, Michael's top sustained winds were around 80 miles per hour. That's when Michael will be moving through our area, bringing heavy rain and gusty winds. The National Hurricane Center has enacted hurricane, tropical storm, and storm surge warnings for more than 300 miles of the Florida coast.

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

Forecasters say the storm could dump as much as 30 centimeters of rain in western Cuba, triggering life-threatening flash floods and mudslides.

Georgia Governor Nathan Deal declared a state of emergency on Tuesday for 92 counties in his state. Ivey signed the emergency declaration Monday, anticipating wide-spread power outages, wind damage and heavy rain from Michael. Local authorities fear power outages and major tree damage from Michael. The most recent was Hurricane Wilma during the incredibly active season of 2005.

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