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Hurricane Michael takes aim at Florida Panhandle, prompting evacuations

10 October 2018

Fueled by warm tropical waters, fast-strengthening Michael could gain major hurricane status with winds topping 111 miles per hour before its anticipated landfall Wednesday on the Panhandle or Big Bend area of Florida, forecasters warn.

In Gulf County alone, the first to begin ordering residents of low-lying areas to higher ground, mandatory evacuation notices encompassed an estimated 3,800 homes, said Jessica Sasich of the county's emergency operations centre.

Michael gained new strength over warm tropical waters amid fears it would swiftly intensify into a major hurricane before striking Florida's northeast Gulf Coast, where frantic coastal dwellers are boarding up homes and seeking evacuation routes away from the risky storm heading their way.

As of the 4pm CDT advisory Monday evening, Michael was a category 1 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 80 miles per hour.

According to the NHC, Michael will likely make landfall early Wednesday morning, and is "forecast to be a unsafe major hurricane".

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The Department of Foreign Affairs on Tuesday said it has alerted Filipinos in 5 southeastern USA states to prepare for Hurricane Michael, forecast to crash ashore midweek as a major Category 3 storm. Further north, the forecast calls for 8 to 12 feet of surge in the Big Bend area, along with catastrophic winds above 110 miles per hour, where it is expected to make landfall late Wednesday. Scott also said Monday afternoon that state health officials are reaching out to hospitals and nursing homes to be prepared. "Take care of them", Scott said.

There is a risk for tornadoes in Florida on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Tropical Storm Michael is seen in the Gulf of Mexico in this NOAA GOES-East satellite image taken Monday. A hurricane watch was in effect from the Alabama-Florida border to the Suwannee River area.

Some of the population centers that could witness some of the most severe hurricane effects include Fort Walton Beach, Destin, Panama City Beach and Apalachicola.

Meteorologists at the National Hurricane Center say they are closely monitoring the track of Hurricane Michael as it moves into the Gulf of Mexico.

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Michael was lashing western Cuba on Monday with heavy rains and strong winds.

In neighbouring Alabama, Governor Kay Ivey declared an emergency for the entire state on Monday in anticipation of wind damage, heavy rains and power outages. The storm's tropical storm-force winds extended 175 miles from its center, according to the weather center.

Michael, which formed near the Yucatan Peninsula on Sunday, is expected to dump 4 to 8 inches of rain - and as much as 12 inches in some areas - on western Cuba before it hits the United States. This will likely be a storm with the worst impacts seen overnight on Wednesday. The latest track from the NHC shows Michael as a category 1 hurricane entering the southwestern edge of central Georgia at 2 AM Thursday morning.

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

Michael will make landfall very close to Panama City, Florida as a high end category 4 hurricane. It will weaken into a tropical storm near the Carolinas and Virginia on its way back to the Atlantic Ocean, forecasters said.

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Hurricane Michael takes aim at Florida Panhandle, prompting evacuations