Hurricane Michael strengthens into Category 2 storm with 100 miles per hour winds

Cristina Cross
October 10, 2018

The latest European model shows the storm intensifying - possibly to a Category 3 - before it crests Florida's coast near Tallahassee.

Michael is the 13th named storm of the 2018 hurricane season and the seventh hurricane.

Hurricane-force winds extend about 40 miles from the center, with tropical storm-force winds reaching 185 miles, Graham said.

Hurricane Michael is closing in on the Florida Panhandle, forecast to make landfall as a "monstrous" Category 3 storm with a unsafe storm surge of up to 12 feet, officials said.

The system has now graduated to Category 2 hurricane status and is expected to reach Category 3 (with winds in excess of 110 mph) when it makes its US mainland landfall on Wednesday afternoon. The similarities between the two storms are striking - both with respect to where they developed and the dangers they presented to the Florida Gulf Coast.

Life-threatening storm surge is forecast along portions of the Florida Gulf Coast regardless of the storm's exact track or intensity.

Landfall is expected some time on Wednesday afternoon or early evening near Panama City to Apalachicola.

The storm was about 220 kilometres east-northwest of Cozumel, Mexico, with maximum sustained winds of winds of 120 kilometres per hour, forecasters said.

Michael lashed western Cuba Monday with heavy rains and strong winds.

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. Most of the rain was blamed on a low-pressure system off the Pacific coast, but Michael in the Caribbean could have also contributed.

As the storm closed in on the US, it caused havoc in the Caribbean.

Cedar Key to Crystal River could see storm surges topping 6-8 feet.

The National Weather Service has warned the hurricane could have catastrophic impacts in the Big Bend and Panhandle as it moves ashore with powerful winds and a life-threatening storm surge, then turns northeastward to the Carolinas.

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As residents of coastal Florida evacuate, Hurricane Michael is expected to grow more severe before hitting the area as soon as Wednesday.

Michael is expected to be the strongest hurricane, based on wind speeds, to make landfall in the continental United States since Irma in September of previous year.

Of the elderly and infirm patients, Scott had a blunt message for their caregivers: "If you're responsible for a patient, you're responsible for the patient".

With an officiant standing in front of them, the couple said their vows on the beach as brisk winds brushed them.

Tallahassee´s Democratic Mayor Andrew Gillum, who is campaigning to succeed Scott as governor in next month´s elections, suspended his campaign and returned to the state capital to oversee storm preparations. "Downed trees and extended power outages will be possible in these areas as a result".

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. "There's nothing between us and this storm but warm water and I think that's what terrifies us about the potential impacts".

The storm surge in some places in Florida could reach more than 10 feet, the NHC warned. Many filled sandbags and boarded up homes.

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.

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 (178 kph).

"This storm has the potential to be a historic storm, please take heed", the sheriff's office said in the post.

The highest concern for damaging winds, of course, is near the center of the storm.

The governor's declaration activates the state's emergency operations plan, according to Ivey's office. Forecasters also warned spinoff tornadoes would also be a threat.

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