Evacuations ordered as Florida braces for Hurricane Michael

Evacuations ordered as Florida braces for Hurricane Michael

"#HurricaneMichael isn't heading to any one town..." The fast-moving storm is likely to make landfall early Wednesday.

The storm is strengthening as it crosses the Gulf of Mexico, and the hurricane is predicted to be a major storm when it hits the Florida panhandle on Wednesday.

By 11 a.m., Michael had winds of 110 miles per hour, just below a major Category 3 hurricane, and was getting stronger, drawing energy from Gulf waters with temperatures in the mid-80s.

The storm is expected to hit the Florida Panhandle within the next day with winds of nearly 130 miles per hour, along with 12-foot-high storm surge and heavy rain that will drench its way into the Carolinas.

The combination of a risky storm surge and the tide will cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded by rising waters moving inland from the shoreline.

"#Michael could produce three life-threatening hazards along portions of the northeastern Gulf Coast: storm surge, heavy rainfall, and hurricane-force winds, with storm surge and hurricane watches in effect", the NHC said on Twitter.

A Storm Surge Watch is in effect for. A tropical storm watch was also issued for the eastern coasts of Georgia and SC.

Tropical-storm-force winds will be felt in the area starting early Wednesday, and mandatory or voluntary evacuation orders already have been issued in at least 16 Florida counties along and near the state's Panhandle and Big Bend coasts.

An estimated 120,000 people along the Florida Panhandle were ordered to clear out on Tuesday as Hurricane Michael rapidly picked up steam in the Gulf of Mexico and closed in with winds of 110 miles per hour and a potential storm surge of 12 feet.

Now ranked as a Category 1 storm on the five-step Saffir-Simpson wind scale, Michael could grow into a Category 3, becoming the second major hurricane in the Atlantic basin this year following Florence last month, forecasters said.

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Hurricanes are violent storms that can bring devastation to coastal areas, threatening lives, homes and businesses. During an emergency meeting of the Bay County Commission on Monday night, Sheriff Tommy Ford said people will "not be dragged out of their homes", but reminded those who stay that first responders may not be able to reach them once the storm hits.

"Everybody's got to get ready".

He said: "My expectation is if you are a health care facility you have a responsibility to take care of those patients".

The governor has declared states of emergency for Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, Walton, Holmes, Washington, Bay, Jackson, Calhoun, Gulf, Gadsden, Liberty, Franklin, Leon, Wakulla, Jefferson, Madison, Taylor, Hamilton, Suwannee, Lafayette, Dixie, Columbia, Gilchrist, Levy, Citrus, Pasco, Hernando, Pinellas, Hillsborough, Manatee, Alachua, Union, Bradford and Baker counties.

Florida has had more hurricanes in October than in any other month.

Shoreline communities within Michael's monstrous reach could see 12 feet of storm surge, while areas inland could be soaked with a foot of rainfall, flash flooding and possible tornadoes.

State offices, schools and universities were to close on Tuesday through the end of the week in panhandle counties.

"On the state level, we are prepared", said Ivey.

Commercial boats leave the Destin Harbor in Destin, Florida, ahead of Hurricane Michael.

In the small Panhandle city of Apalachicola, Mayor Van Johnson Sr. said the 2,300 residents are frantically preparing for a major hurricane strike that could be unlike any there in decades.

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