Hurricane Michael strengthens to Category 2 and takes aim at north Florida

Hurricane Michael strengthens to Category 2 and takes aim at north Florida

Hurricane Michael strengthens to Category 2 and takes aim at north Florida

It churned about 170 miles southwest of Apalachicola, Fla., and was predicted to make landfall with that same strength by Wednesday afternoon.

The National Hurricane Center says Michael made landfall near Mexico Beach, Florida, as a catastrophic Category 4 Hurricane at approximately 2 p.m., pushing a deadly storm surge and whipping the coast with 155 miles per hour (250 kph) winds.

Now if you're looking at the "skull" and think it looks familiar, that's because this is now the third year in a row where there's been some sort of skull-like face popping up in satellite images from a hurricane hitting the U.S.

Weather Channel meteorologist Stu Ostro shared images previous year comparing the creepy face sightings from Hurricane Irma in 2017 and Hurricane Matthew in 2016.

While Florence took five days between the time it turned into a hurricane and the moment it blew ashore in the Carolinas, Michael gave Florida what could amount to just two days' notice.

Scott declared a state of emergency in 35 Florida counties, mostly encompassing rural areas known for small tourist cities, beaches, wildlife reserves and Tallahassee, the state capital. This area includes Pensacola, Panama City and Tallahassee.

The agency warned residents in Florida and Alabama of possible storm surges, high winds and flash flooding.

There was a storm surge warning in effect from the Okaloosa/Walton county line to the Anclote River in Florida, and a storm surge watch in effect from Ocracoke Inlet, N.C., to Duck, N.C. The Florida Panhandle, southeast Alabama, and southern Georgia will see 4 to 8 inches of rain, with isolated areas facing up to 12 inches, the National Hurricane Center said. "You need to take care of yourselves". The Florida National Guard has over 4,000 more Guard members available for deployment, Scott said.

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With a number of counties ordering evacuations, Scott waived highway tolls in the northwest part of the state.

For residents who want to leave, local authorities are stressing timely evacuation, too.

"Storm surge is the No. 1 problem that you can see from these storms".

"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. Levy County has closed its schools through Thursday; Florida State University, in Tallahassee, has closed as well.

Citing data from aircraft that flew in the storm, the hurricane center says Michael is becoming better organized and symmetrical as it moves north.

A hurricane hunter plane that bounced into the swirling eye off the western tip of Cuba found wind speeds rising.

North Carolina is expected to feel impacts from Michael late Wednesday or early Thursday.

Hurricane Michael could produce three life-threatening hazards along portions of the northeastern Gulf Coast.

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