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article imageHurricane Michael has the 'potential to be a historic storm'

By Karen Graham     Oct 8, 2018 in Environment
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 make Landfall as a major Category 3 storm.
After slamming into the western tip of Cuba, the center of Hurricane Michael is now about 485 miles (780 kilometers) south of Panama City, Florida and about 450 miles (725 kilometers) south of Apalachicola, Florida, according to the National Hurricane Center (NHC) at 10:00 p.m. EDT on October 8.
Michael is moving toward the north at close to 12 mph (19 kph), with maximum sustained winds of 90 mph (150 kph). Hurricane force winds extend outward from the center up to 35 miles (55 kilometers) and tropical-force winds extend outward as much as 175 miles (280 kilometers). The minimum central pressure recently measured by two reconnaissance aircraft was 970 mb (28.65 inches).
A northward to north-northwestward motion at a slightly faster forward speed is expected through Tuesday night, followed by a slight northeastward turn on Wednesday and Thursday. As far as the storm's forecast track, the center of Michael will continue to move over the southeastern Gulf of Mexico tonight, then move across the eastern Gulf of Mexico Tuesday and Tuesday night.
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NHC
The waters of the Gulf of Mexico registered 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit) on Monday, so the storm is expected to continue to gain strength as it moves over the warm waters. NHC is expecting Michael to become a major hurricane by Tuesday night.
Michael is predicted to move inland over the Florida Panhandle or Florida Big Bend area on Wednesday, and then move northeastward across the southeastern United States Wednesday night and Thursday.
Evacuations in progress
With Michael expected to become a major hurricane with winds topping 111 mph (179 kph) before its anticipated landfall Wednesday on the Panhandle or Big Bend area of Florida, BP has ordered an evacuation of personnel and a shut-in of production at four platforms, Atlantis, Mad Dog, Na Kika, and Thunder Horse.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott called Michael a "monstrous hurricane" with a devastating potential from high winds, storm surge, and heavy rains. Tolls have been waived to encourage those near the coast to evacuate inland. Scott also noted that state health officials are reaching out to hospitals and nursing homes to be prepared, particularly after 14 lives were lost with Hurricane Irma last year.
The small Panhandle city of Apalachicola, home to 2,300 residents has been frantically preparing for a major hurricane strike that could be unlike any there in decades, said Mayor Van Johnson Sr.
"We're looking at a significant storm with significant impact, possibly greater than I've seen in my 59 years of life," Johnson said of the city, straddling the shore of Apalachicola Bay, a Gulf of Mexico inlet that reaps about 90 percent of Florida's oysters.
And in Wakulla County, the 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 mph (178 kph). Hurricane Michael is expected to have winds stronger than that, and Wakulla County residents are being urged to evacuate inland.
"This storm has the potential to be a historic storm, please take heed," the sheriff's office said in the post.
Storm surge and high winds will be dangerous
The NHC says parts of Florida's curvy Big Bend could see up to 12 feet (3.7 meters) of storm surge, while Michael also could dump up to a foot (30 centimeters) of rain over some Panhandle communities as it moves inland.
More about Hurricane Michael, category 3, storm surge, Evacuations, Dangerous