Michael strengthens to Category 2 hurricane; expected to intensify

Waves building off the coast of Cuba ahead of the arrival of hurricane Michael

Waves building off the coast of Cuba ahead of the arrival of hurricane Michael

With Hurricane Florence still fresh in the minds of North Carolinians, Gov. Roy Cooper urged state residents to prepare for another storm.

As of the 4pm CDT advisory Monday evening, Michael was a category 1 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 80 miles per hour. A cold front will be moving toward the east coast. Storm surge rises rapidly Wednesday morning and afternoon. "Yet here we sit at 10:00 pm, less than 24 hours from the onset of tropical storm force winds in advance of a major hurricane and with little to no sheltering and evacuation operations yet begun".

Forecasters say Hurricane Michael will strengthen into a major hurricane by late Tuesday as it continues on a risky path towards the southeastern USA state of Florida.

Hurricane Michael suddenly became news on Monday after eclipsing its former tropical-storm status while lashing Cuba.

In the open Gulf of Mexico, wave heights are expected to hit as high as 40 feet, said Kara Doran, the research oceanographer for the USGS.

Hurricane Michael will make landfall along the Florida Panhandle on Wednesday, most likely as a major storm.

Hurricane Michael is expected to hit the Florida panhandle as a major storm on Wednesday afternoon (Oct. 10) - and US weather satellites are busy watching the storm to help meteorologists keep people safe.

The last major hurricane to hit northwest Florida was in 2005, when Hurricane Dennis made landfall at Santa Rosa Island, FL, as a Category 3 storm, the Northwest Florida Daily Newsreported. Michael will track north into Georgia Wednesday evening and the center will be closest to Atlanta between Midnight Wednesday and 3 a.m. Thursday.

Citing data from aircraft that flew in the storm, the hurricane center says Michael is becoming better organized and symmetrical as it moves north. Forecasters warned that Michael could dump up to a foot of rain in western Cuba, potentially triggering flash floods and mudslides in mountain areas.

According to the Associated Press, six people were killed in Honduras, four people in Nicaragua and three in El Salvador. Authorities were also searching for a boy swept away by a river in Guatemala.

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Scott called the storm "monstrous", adding, "We haven't seen anything like this in the Panhandle in decades".

"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 at a news conference.

The National Weather Service said Michael could produce life-threatening hazards along portions of the northeastern Gulf Coast, including storm surge, heavy rainfall, and hurricane-force winds.

Scott extended a state of emergency to 35 counties and activated 2,500 National Guardsmen for hurricane duty.

A storm surge warning is also in effect from Florida's Okaloosa/Walton County Line to the Anclote River.

Florida has had more hurricanes in October than in any other month.

"If you're responsible for a patient, you're responsible for the patient. Take care of them". US producers in the Gulf cut oil production by about 40 percent and natural gas output by 28 percent on Tuesday, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement said, citing reports from 27 companies. "Residents and businesses in coastal Alabama must be vigilant and closely monitor the storm's path and be prepared for a major hurricane". Many filled sandbags and boarded up homes and lined up to buy gas and groceries before leaving town.

Other locations in the state are under voluntary evacuation.

The worst storm surge is expected between Mexico Beach and Keaton Beach, where nine to 13 feet of inundation is possible, forecasters warned.

Byard said an estimated 500,000 people face evacuation orders and advisories in Florida, where residents and tourists were fleeing low-lying areas in at least 20 counties stretching along 200 miles (322 km) of shore in the Panhandle and adjacent Big Bend regions.

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