Hurricane Michael falls short of a Category 5 - by just 2 mph

Cristina Cross
October 11, 2018

Michael was one of the worst storms the Panhandle had ever faced even before it made landfall.

Forecasters say that 4 to 8 inches of rain is expected along the path of the storm, and 12 inches could fall in some parts of the Panhandle.

An estimated 6,000 people evacuated to emergency shelters, mostly in Florida, and that number was expected to swell to 20,000 across five states by week's end, said Brad Kieserman of the American Red Cross.

The meteorological brute quickly sprang from a weekend tropical depression, becoming a furious Category 4 by early Wednesday, up from a Category 2 less than a day earlier.

Forecasters say Michael should re-emerge over the Atlantic Ocean on Friday and regain some strength as it moves away from the US coast. Search and rescue crews were expected to escalate efforts to reach hardest-hit areas and check for anyone trapped or injured in the storm debris.

Based on its internal barometric pressure, Michael was the third most powerful hurricane to hit the US mainland, behind the unnamed Labor Day storm of 1935 and Camille in 1969. Another 40,000 were without power in Georgia and 41,000 in Alabama. Storm surges aren't walls of water, like a tsunami.

Hurricane-force winds extended up to 45 miles (75 kilometers) from Michael's center at the height of the storm.

Because of the warmer water, computer simulations predict Michael's central pressure will plunge just before making landfall, which is a sign of intensification, said Weather Underground's Jeff Masters.

"The roof fell in but we lived through it", he said.

"Most of that is within 100 feet of the coast", Alan Pierce, a retired Franklin County administrator, said. If you chose to stay in an evacuation zone, you must SEEK REFUGE IMMEDIATELY, "Scott tweeted on Wednesday".

At least 10 military bases, home to about 700,000 service members and their families, are in the region, the Defense Department said.

Governor Scott put a moratorium on all bridge tolls to make evacuating a bit more budget-friendly.

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Kieserman told reporters that he wouldn't be surprised more than 20,000 people were in shelters by Thursday or Friday.

A steady flow of customers poured into the store as a misleading, brilliant sunset of pink and orange blanketed Franklin County on Tuesday.

The bayfront city of Apalachicola, Florida's oyster capital, suffered severe flooding and property damage along aptly named Water Street, home to several restaurants. "If you've been around town, you've seen all the trees that are down, all the roads that are blocked downtown the flooding", Smith said.

"We'll be able to handle another storm if it hits next week", Byard said, adding that he hopes he hasn't jinxed the region. Costco has limited shoppers to two cases of bottled water, while lines are forming outside gas stations, recalling the fuel shortages of the early 1970s.

A month after Hurricane Florence's epic deluge, SC officials are more concerned about tornadoes than flooding from Hurricane Michael.

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal declared an emergency for 92 counties. The state was pummeled last month by the deadly Hurricane Florence. She did so again when asked whether there are plans to evacuate the 15 prisons located inside the mandatory evacuation zone.

Peter Macias, a spokesman for the Red Cross, said about 4,000 people entered almost 70 evacuation centers across the Florida Panhandle and Alabama overnight.

President Donald Trump approved a pre-landfall emergency declaration to provide federal money and help in Florida.

Government offices close in those 35 counties.

"We have done everything we can as far as getting the word out", he said.

The coming storm has also prompted state officials to extend the deadline to register to vote. The state Democratic Party filed a lawsuit Tuesday saying that the one-day extension was insufficient and confusing.

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