Major Hurricane Michael to reach Panhandle Wednesday; multiple adversities for local area

Hurricane Michael's path to Florida and Alabama

Hurricane Michael's path to Florida and Alabama

A satellite image shows Hurricane Michael moving north in the Gulf of Mexico, heading for a landfall in the Florida Panhandle.

The Category 1 hurricane, as of 5 p.m. EDT Monday, is forecast to possibly strengthen to a Category 3 with maximum sustained winds topping 111 miles per hour near its center of rotation before reaching the Gulf Coast on Wednesday morning at Panama City Beach, Fla.

Forecasters said parts of the Panhandle and Florida's marshy, lightly populated Big Bend area - the crook of Florida's elbow - could see 9 to 13 feet (2.7 to 4 meters) of storm surge.

Data from an Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter aircraft indicate that maximum sustained winds have increased to near 75 miles per hour with higher gusts. Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 35 miles from the storm's center and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 175 miles.

"The center of Michael will continue to move over the southern Gulf of Mexico this morning, then move across the eastern Gulf of Mexico later today and tonight", said the agency's 5 a.m. ET update.

Michael is expected to sweep up the East Coast, and tropical storm-force winds were projected to reach the state Thursday, according to the center's projections.

Tropical Storm Watches and Hurricane Watches have been issued for portions of the Gulf Coast from Alabama-Mississippi border to Tampa Bay, Florida.

By 5pm. Monday, Michael's top sustained winds were around 80mph (129kph) as it headed north at 9mph (14.5kph). Michael was likely to strengthen into a Category 2 hurricane sometime Tuesday, meteorologist Danielle Niles of CBS Boston reports.

Worry over Hurricane Michael has also postponed the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Commission's highly anticipated hearings into the high school massacre scheduled for this week, as many of those on the commission live in the panhandle.

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Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, Florida's Democratic nominee for governor, filled sandbags with residents and urged residents of the state capital city to finish up emergency preparations quickly. In a Facebook post Monday, the Wakulla County Sheriff's Office said no shelters would be open because Wakulla County shelters were rated safe only for hurricanes with top sustained winds below 111 miles per hour.

Mandatory evacuations were under way in coastal areas, with 1,250 National Guard soldiers aiding the process and more than 4,000 troops placed on standby, according to the governor's office.

Florida Fish and Wildlife has put 40 additional law enforcement officers on notice to deploy with a variety of special equipment, including boats.

The NHC says some coastal regions can expect 8 to 12 feet of storm surge - a flood or tsunami-like phenomenon of rising water after rainfall.

"The storm surge is absolutely deadly".

On the Florida panhandle, Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan bluntly advised residents who choose to ride out the storm that first responders won't be able to reach them during or immediately after Michael smashes into the coast. The storm was implicated in the deaths of 80 Floridians, according to the Associated Press - including residents at a nursing home. Cuban authorities said they evacuated about 400 people from low-lying areas.

Each line represents a computer model and its best "guess" as to where the center of the storm will go.

The National Weather Service in Tallahassee said: "This is a storm to definitely take very seriously".

Both Peaton and Scott encourage residents to have at least three days' worth of food and supplies, and check on their neighbors and monitor local news coverage.

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