The rapidly approaching storm has only been strengthening as it has made its way across the eastern Gulf of Mexico. The National Weather Service has since declared Michael a Category 4 storm (out of 5), warning Florida residents of its potentially deadly 140 mph. sustained winds, 13 foot storm surges, and heavy rainfall that’s expected to bring dangerous flash floods.
Michael is expected to touch down near the near the PCB/Mexico beach area by noon, the NWS says. As of 6 a.m. ET, Michael was centered about 105 miles south-southwest of Panama City and moving at 15 mph., Weather.com reported.
Florida residents in this area haven’t seen a hurricane of this strength in their lifetimes. According to Dr. Phil Klotzbach, tropical scientist at Colorado State University, the Gulf Coast has never recorded a Category 4-plus hurricane landfall in records dating back to 1851.
Officials with the NWS’ office in Tallahassee said on Monday that the storm would be “a potentially catastrophic event for the northeastern Gulf Coast.”
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States of emergency have been declared across 35 counties, with over 500,000 residents ordered to evacuate up and down the coast, Reuters reported.
For those that haven’t already, Gov. Rick Scott encouraged residents on Wednesday to quickly find shelter.
“The time for evacuating along the coast has come and gone,” he tweeted. “First responders will not be able to come out in the middle of the storm. If you chose to stay in an evacuation zone, you must SEEK REFUGE IMMEDIATELY.”
“This is as SERIOUS as it gets gets,” said NWS Tallahassee. “Major #HurricaneMichael has continued to intensify over the Gulf of Mexico. We want everyone to know this is an EXTREMELY dangerous storm and unfortunately the time for preparation is ending!”
Aside from the structural damage that’s expected, it’s likely over a million power outages will occur after landfall, the Associated Press reported.
So far, 1,250 troops have been already been activated by the Florida National Guard for emergency response. President Donald Trump also declared a state of emergency for Florida, freeing up federal assistance for the Sunshine State.
“You cannot survive this, no one is going to survive this,” Scott said on Tuesday’s Good Morning America, encouraging residents to evacuate and comparing the wave sizes to those of last month’s devastating tsunami in Indonesia. “The water just flows in fast and sucks things out. … Don’t take a chance.”