Track live forecasts of river flooding ahead of Hurricane Michael

Lamar Ellis
October 10, 2018

Hurricane Michael, which forecasters expect to make landfall around Panama City on Wednesday, has forced mandatory evacuation orders for coastal or low-lying areas for almost a dozen counties as of Tuesday, according to the state emergency website: Bay, Citrus, Dixie, Franklin, Gulf, Jackson, Levy, Okaloosa, Taylor, Wakulla and Walton.

Some 120,000 residents were under mandatory evacuation orders in Bay County in the panhandle, a low-lying area of beachfront resorts and retirement communities.

Michael's core, with maximum sustained winds of 110 mph, was about 335 miles south of Panama City, Florida, as of 2 p.m. ET Tuesday, the National Hurricane Center said.

The storm is expected to unleash coastal storm surges of up to 12 feet (3.7 meters) along Florida's Panhandle and dump as much as a foot (30 cm) of rain across Florida, Georgia and SC, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) reported. The worst storm surge is expected between Mexico Beach and Keaton Beach, where nine to 13 feet of inundation is possible, forecasters warned.

In all likelihood, destruction on that scale won't happen, but the most recent major storm, Hurricane Florence, caused $38 billion of damage, mostly in North Carolina and extended into SC and Virginia.

Hurricane Michael would be the first major hurricane to hit the panhandle since Hurricane Dennis in 2005, which made landfall near Pensacola, according to hurricane centre data.

"Minimal impact" is a lousy title for an action film but a good prediction for a hurricane, and that's what Ricketts said was coming to the D.C. area. "We can rebuild your home, but we cannot rebuild your life", Scott added.

So the damage footprint of hurricane Michael will be very different and aside from the threat posed by a Category 3 landfall and storm surge the impacts inland from wind damage could be much more significant than seen with recent Florence. That's just below the threshold for a "major" hurricane, and forecasters say they still expect Michael to get stronger.

The National Hurricane Center has enacted hurricane, tropical storm and storm surge warnings for more than 300 miles of the Florida coast.

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Michael will be "a major hurricane" in the Florida Panhandle, making landfall Wednesday afternoon, Ricketts said.

Florida Governor Rick Scott has declared a state of emergency for 35 counties and activated hundreds of National Guard troops to prepare for Hurricane Michael's onslaught.

While Florence wrung itself out for days and brought ruinous rains, fast-moving Michael is likely to be more about wind and storm surge.

The storm is expected to undergo rapid intensification again Tuesday.

Some Panama City residents were seen on the beach enjoying the cool breeze ahead of the storm, while others were loading up cars with luggage and visitors were checking out of hotels.

"If you decide to stay in your home and a tree falls on your house or the storm surge catches you and you're now calling for help, there's no one that can respond to help you", Morgan said.

The NHC forecasts 4 to 8 inches of rain for the Panhandle, southeast Alabama and southern Georgia. In fact, this time a year ago, Hurricane Nate also formed within a gyre in the Caribbean.

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.

Scott also told Florida hospitals and nursing homes to do all they can to assure the safety of the elderly and infirm. The storm is set to slam into the Florida Panhandle on Wednesday. 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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