Michael heading for Florida panhandle

Olive Hawkins
October 10, 2018

Florida's voters threatened by Hurricane Michael will get an extra day to register to vote ahead of the state's closely-watched races for governor and U.S. Senate.

By the time it reaches Florida on Wednesday local time, it is expected to be a category three hurricane with winds of more than 100mph and storm surges of up to 12ft (3.7 metres). If Michael's core comes ashore as a Category 2 or higher, it would be the strongest storm in terms of wind speed to make landfall in the country this year.

Wednesday: By Wednesday morning, the storm's gale-force winds (around 40 mph) will have reached the Panhandle. "Persons located within these areas should take all necessary actions to protect life and property from rising water and the potential for other unsafe conditions", the hurricane center said.

The National Weather Service is now warning that Michael is a "potentially catastrophic" weather event, which could result in "the strongest hurricane to landfall" upon Florida's Panhandle in over a decade. If the Hurricane Center's forecast track shifts further westward, that would be good news for the area, he said.

The NHC forecast as much as 1 foot (30 cm) of rain in parts of Florida, Georgia and SC.

The expected path for Hurricane Michael as of October 9, 2018.

He said: "Today is about life and safety".

Landfall is expected Wednesday on Florida's northeast Gulf Coast.

Michael was packing sustained winds of up to 140km/h late on Monday and gaining strength as it skirted past Cuba's western tip, where it is expected to dump as much as 30cm of rain, potentially triggering flash floods and mudslides in mountain areas.

Gov Scott warned in a news conference that Hurricane Michael is a "massive storm that could bring total devastation to parts of our state, especially in the panhandle". "Don't take a chance", he said.

There will be no shelters open in Wakulla County, the sheriff's office warned on Facebook, because they are rated safe only for hurricanes with top sustained winds below 111 miles per hour. Additional strengthening is forecast in the coming hours before landfall.

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Florida Governor Rick Scott declared a state of emergency in more than 20 counties, and advised Gulf Coast residents to prepare for possible evacuation orders. He said many houses that suffered roof damage in Florence are still covered in tarps and could be vulnerable to strong wind and rain.

While Florence took five days between the time it turned into a hurricane and the moment it rolled into the Carolinas, Michael gave Florida what amounted to two days' notice.

From the Okaloosa/Walton County Line, Florida, to Indian Pass, 6 to 9 feet of storm surge could hit.

As the storm closed in on the USA, it caused havoc in the Caribbean.

Speaking alongside emergency officials in Pasco County, Scott said Monday he's waiving tolls.

In a Facebook post Monday, the Wakulla County Sheriff's Office said no shelters would be open in Wakulla County because Michael was forecast to become a major hurricane with winds topping 111 miles per hour (178 kph).

The sheriff's office says Wakulla County shelters were rated safe only for hurricanes below that threshold.

Mandatory evacuations are in effect along much of Florida's northern Gulf Coast, stretching from the Panhandle into the area known as the Big Bend.

"I am not seeing the level of traffic on the roadways that I would expect when we've called for the evacuation of 75 percent of this county", Bay County Sheriff Tommy Ford said.

Some 120,000 people people have been warned to evacuate along Florida's coast, where schools and state offices are to remain shut this week.

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