Published: Tue, October 09, 2018
Worldwide | By Gretchen Simon

Hurricane Michael strengthens as it heads toward Gulf of Mexico

Hurricane Michael strengthens as it heads toward Gulf of Mexico

Residents of Florida's Panhandle frantically filled sandbags, boarded up homes and secured boats Monday as they anxiously awaited Hurricane Michael, which forecasters warned could smash into the state's Gulf Coast as a unsafe major hurricane within days. The biggest concerns for the Florida coastline, particularly an area between Destin and Apalachicola, are strong winds and a damaging storm surge.

Michael is the 13th named storm of the 2018 hurricane season, according to hurricane centre spokesman Dennis Feltgen.

"There is a real possibility that Michael will strengthen to a major hurricane before landfall" after it spends the next two to three days over the Gulf of Mexico, which has very warm temperatures and favorable atmospheric conditions, Robbie Berg, a hurricane specialist with the NHC, wrote in an advisory.

Hurricane Michael is expected to hit the Florida Panhandle on Wednesday, after strengthening in the Gulf of Mexico.

"It would be a tropical storm for us", Saavedra said.

Michael may be more of a wind event than a rain event for Eastern North Carolina but neither wind nor rain are good news just a month after Hurricane Florence.

A satellite image of Tropical Storm Michael taken Monday. He also waived tolls in a move to help coastal dwellers leave.

A Storm Surge Warning is in effect for.

The U.S. military was moving its aircraft from the Panhandle on Monday.

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The rainfall could lead to "life-threatening" flash floods and mudslides in mountainous regions, the hurricane center said.

A Storm Surge Warning is in effect for Okaloosa/Walton County Line Florida to Anclote River Florida A Storm Surge Watch is in effect for Anclote River Florida to Anna Maria Island Florida, including Tampa Bay, and Alabama/Florida border to Okaloosa/Walton County Line Florida A Hurricane Warning is in effect for Alabama/Florida border to Suwannee River Florida and the Cuban province of Pinar del Rio.

Throughout Tuesday, Close said these storms will increase in scope and a few thunderstorms will emerge.

As of 8 a.m. ET, Tropical Storm Michael is located 120 miles east-northeast of Cozumel, Mexico and about 70 miles south of the western tip of Cuba. Maximum sustained winds are near 50 miles per hour with higher gusts, the NHC said in an 11 a.m. CDT advisory, adding that slow strengthening is forecast during the next few days.

Hurricane Michael continues to strengthen as it heads into the Gulf of Mexico. The category one hurricane is expected to affect parts of the state later this week. The risk of life-threatening storm surge, heavy rainfall, and risky winds is increasing for the northeastern Gulf Coast.

Rainfall is also set to be a serious danger over the coming days, as Cuba has already received four to eight inches, and most of Florida and Carolina is in for at least four to eight inches. Pfaff said this risk is higher if the storm moves west of the area.

Heavy rains at the weekend caused 13 deaths in Central America after Michael formed off the coast of northern Honduras.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey also declared a state of emergency in her state, "in anticipation of widespread power outages, wind damage and debris produced by high winds and heavy rain associated with Hurricane Michael".

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