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article imageHurricane Michael is now a very dangerous Category 3 storm

By Karen Graham     Oct 9, 2018 in Environment
"Hurricane Michael is forecast to be the most destructive storm to hit the Florida Panhandle in decades," Gov. Rick Scott said. "It will be life-threatening and extremely dangerous. You cannot hide from this storm."
As of 4:00 p.m. Tuesday, October 9, the National Hurricane Center places Category 3 Hurricane Michael about 295 miles (470 kilometers) south of Panama City, Florida. Michael is moving toward the north near 12 mph (19 kph) with maximum sustained winds of 120 mph (195 kph) with gusts up to 150 mph. The minimum central pressure of the storm based on data from an Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter aircraft is 957 mb (28.26 inches).
Hurricane-force winds with Michael extend outward from the center for 45 miles (75 kilometers) and tropical storm-force winds extend outward up to 175 miles (280 kilometers). The NHC reports that NOAA buoy 42003 recently reported 1-minute mean winds of 63 mph (101 kph) and a wind gust of 72 mph (115 kph).
It should be noted that further strengthening is possible as Michael continues to head towards the Gulf Coast. Landfall is still expected tomorrow afternoon in the Florida Panhandle as a major -- Category 3 or higher -- storm.
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Storm Surge with Michael
There is a storm surge marker in Apalachicola, Florida, and it's an ominous reminder of how dangerous surge can be within a hurricane. The last major hurricane to hit the Florida panhandle was hurricane Dennis in 2005. The water rose water and completely inundated Highway 98 along the state's vulnerable “Big Bend” coastline.
During the height of the storm, Dennis produced storm surges as high as 9 ft (3 meters) in the Apalachee Bay region, and as high as 7 ft (2 meters) on the Florida Panhandle.
Storm Surge Warning is in effect for the Okaloosa/Walton County Line in Florida to Anclote River Florida. A Storm Surge Warning means there is a danger of life-threatening inundation, from rising water moving inland from the coastline, during the next 36 hours in the indicated locations.
The combination of a dangerous storm surge and the tide will cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded by rising waters moving inland from the shoreline. The water has the potential to reach anywhere from 9 to 13 feet from Mexico Beach to Keaton Beach, and 6 to 9 feet from the Okaloosa/Walton County Line to Mexico Beach Florida. Other areas could see storm surge from 2 to 6 feet all the way to the Alabama-Florida border.
The Florida Panhandle and Big Bend, southeast Alabama, and portions of southwest and central Georgia may see 4 to 8 inches of rain, with isolated maximum amounts of 12 inches. This rainfall could lead to life-threatening flash floods. The remainder of Georgia, the Carolinas, and southern Virginia could see anywhere from 3 to 6 inches of rainfall with isolated maximum amounts of 8 inches.
Please be aware that the threat for tornadoes will increase late tonight into Wednesday over parts of the Florida Panhandle, northern Florida Peninsula, and southern Georgia. Heed local warnings.
State of emergency declarations and warnings
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey issued a state of emergency in anticipation of widespread power outages, wind damage and debris produced by high winds. And earlier today, Georgia, Gov. Nathan Deal declared a preemptive state of emergency for 92 counties.
And in North Carolina, still reeling from the destruction of Hurricane Florence last month, Gov. Roy Cooper warned that Michael could bring moderate storm surge, downed trees and power outages to his sodden state.
More about Hurricane Michael, category 3, historic devastation, Florida, dangerous storm