Hurricane Michael Takes Aim At North Florida While Strengthening Into Category 2

Destin Harbor

The U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) said that the storm will hit the Florida Panhandle or Florida Big Bend area on Wednesday before hitting the southeastern United States on Wednesday night and Thursday.

As of the 8 a.m. advisory, Michael was 395 miles south of Panama City, moving north-northwest at 12 mph.

The National Hurricane Center, citing Michael's unsafe trifecta of storm surge, flash flooding and winds, described the seventh hurricane of the Atlantic season as "life-threatening", and the Florida Division of Emergency Management warned on Twitter of the storm's "rapid intensification" ahead of landfall.

"We're looking at a significant storm with significant impact, possibly greater than I've seen in my 59 years of life", he said of the city, which sits on the shore of Apalachicola Bay, an inlet to the Gulf of Mexico famed for producing about 90 per cent of Florida's oysters. Officials have also issued voluntary evacuation orders for parts of several other counties, including Calhoun, Gadsden, Hernando, Jefferson, Leon, Liberty, Pasco and Santa Rosa.

"Because of the damage caused by Hurricane Florence, and the fact that there's still some standing water in places, we have to be that much more alert about the damage that Hurricane Matthew could do", Cooper said.

Meanwhile, tropical storm warnings extend from Florida's Chassahowitzka River to the Mississippi-Alabama border. Following Hurricane Irma a year ago, 14 people died when a South Florida nursing home lost power and air conditioning.

Hurricane Michael swiftly intensified into a Category 2 over warm Gulf of Mexico waters Tuesday amid fears it would strike Florida on Wednesday as a major hurricane.

In terms of wind intensity, that would make it stronger than Hurricane Florence, which had winds of 90 miles per hour when it blew ashore in North Carolina last month.

As of 8 a.m. EDT Tuesday, Michael's peak winds were close to 100 miles per hour as it moved north-northwest at 12 miles per hour.

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Kemp said the bill totaled over $800 when she and her family fled Hurricane Irma's uncertain path previous year.

In North Carolina, still reeling from the destruction of Hurricane Florence last month, Gov. Roy Cooper warned that Michael could bring moderate storm surge, downed trees and power outages to his sodden state. Needless to say, the storm will have serious consequences for Florida (and downstream states such as Georgia) during the remainder of this week. Western Cuba was also forecast to get torrential rains.

The heaviest rain will tend to fall in areas that were missed by Florence and focused from the Florida Panhandle to southwestern and central Georgia to part of central SC.

"It's definitely coming through an area that doesn't need more rain", Kimball said. Tallahassee is located about 30 miles from the coast, and within the projected forecast "cone", according to the National Hurricane Center. The storm was expected to hit land around midday Wednesday, said National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecaster Kenneth Widelski.

On its current track, it would make landfall somewhere along a coastline that includes the cities and towns of Fort Walton Beach, Panama City Beach, Port St. Joe, St. Teresa and the wildlife reserves bordering Apalachee Bay.

Hurricane Michael in a satellite image taken Tuesday.

Georgia Governor Nathan Deal declared a state of emergency on Tuesday for 92 counties in the state.

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum helped residents in Florida's capital fill sandbags as the monster storm loomed.

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