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'Life-threatening' storm surge expected as Hurricane Michael approaches Florida
10 October 2018, 07:46 | Devin Moran
JUST IN: Tropical Storm Nadine forms, Michael wind speeds up to 110 mph
Fueled by warm tropical waters, fast-strengthening Michael could gain major hurricane status with winds topping 111 miles per hour (179 kph) before its anticipated landfall Wednesday on the Panhandle or Big Bend area of Florida, forecasters have warned.
Mandatory evacuation orders went into effect Tuesday morning for some 120,000 people in Panama City Beach and across other low-lying parts of the coast.
The 5 p.m. ET advisory said Michael was located 270 miles south-southwest of Apalachicola, Fla., moving northward at 12 mph.
The National Hurricane Centre (NHC) said a "life-threatening storm surge" was expected along much of the coast of the Florida Panhandle.
Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum says the rapid rise of Hurricane Michael led city officials to hold a "sobering" discussion about the potential impact the storm will have on the area. "We can rebuild your home, but we cannot rebuild your life".
But Michael will be a strong storm when it makes landfall in and around Florida. With Michael's winds projected to be even stronger than that, Wakulla County residents were urged to evacuate inland.
As of 5 a.m. ET on October 9, Michael's center was about 420 miles south of Panama City, Florida and 390 miles south of Apalachicola, Florida. A storm surge watch is in effect for the Anclote River to Anna Maria Island, including Tampa Bay, and for the Alabama-Florida border to the Okaloosa-Walton County line. The storm was moving north at 12 miles per hour.
There is also a large ridge of high pressure off the southeastern USA coast, and this feature is pushing Michael toward the northwest. By 8 a.m. Tuesday, top winds had reached 100 miles per hour (155 kph), and it was forecast to strengthen into a "major" hurricane, with winds topping 111 miles per hour (179 kph).
Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan warned residents during a news conference Monday evening that first responders won't be able to reach them during the storm or immediately after. "You can not hide from storm surge, so get out if an evacuation is ordered".
He said: "We don't know if it's going to wipe out our house or not".
The state emergency website - which provides information on information on road closings, evacuation routes, power outages, flood zones and county shelter operations - had technical issues through Monday and as recently as Tuesday morning.
About 3.7 million people were under hurricane warnings in the Panhandle and Big Bend regions, as well as parts of southeastern Alabama and southern Georgia. He said people will "not be dragged out of their homes", but anyone who stays behind will be on their own once the storm hits.
Central Florida is not now in the cone of uncertainty as the Panhandle will apparently get the major impacts from the storm.
The storm has already caused damage in Mexico and Cuba.
"The state Emergency Response Team has been holding regular calls with the fuel industry and ports in Florida to ensure they can get gas to the area safely", Scott said. "The state is not taking this storm lightly and neither should any family". The governor has declared a state of emergency in 35 counties, and is stressing that residents should "absolutely" evacuate if ordered to.
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