Published: Wed, October 10, 2018
Science | By Michele Flores

"Extremely Dangerous" Hurricane Michael Rumbles Towards Florida Coast

Hurricane Michael has been upgraded to "an extremely dangerous" Category 4 storm early Wednesday as it continues its approach toward the Florida Panhandle, forecasters said.

It said the storm is now packing maximum wind gusts of 130 miles per hour (210 kilometers), could grow even more and is expected to make landfall later in the day along the Florida Panhandle or Big Bend area as a "life-threatening event". "It looks like another big one", he said. Less than a day earlier, Michael was a Category 2.

Evacuations of about 375,000 people have been called for ahead of the fast-strengthening storm, Florida officials said. "SEEK REFUGE IMMEDIATELY", Florida Gov. Rick Scott tweeted, while the sheriff in Panama City's Bay County issued a shelter-in-place order before dawn. Lines at gasoline stations grew as people left.

Hurricane Michael became a Category 3 storm with 120 miles per hour maximum sustained winds on October 9.

Hargan, a bartender at a riverfront restaurant, feared he would lose his home and his job to the storm.

"We basically just walked away from everything and said goodbye to it", he said, tears welling up. Weakening is expected after the storm makes landfall.

A further 3.7 million people are under hurricane warnings along the Florida coast areas as well as in parts of southeastern Alabama and southern Georgia. "There are warnings for more than 300 miles (480km) of coastline", the National Weather Service tweeted, predicting that Michael would become a "large and risky hurricane". Michael is forecast to be the most powerful hurricane to hit Florida's Panhandle in a decade.

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"We are in new territory", National Hurricane Center Meteorologist Dennis Feltgen wrote on Facebook.

Unprecedented? This could be the first time a 4 or stronger hurricane has ever made landfall in the Florida panhandle, per TWC.

The WaterSound Beach Club near Panama City Beach is also sharing a live-cam view of crashing waves and rain. More than 5,000 National Guard soldiers have been put on alert. Evacuations spanned 22 counties from the Florida Panhandle into north central Florida.

His wife and two sons, along with his sister and her baby, had managed to get in a couple of days on the beach before having to weigh whether to follow a mandatory evacuation order.

'I guess it's the worst-case scenario. I don't think anyone would have experienced this in the Panhandle, ' meteorologist Ryan Maue of said.

'This is going to have structure-damaging winds along the coast and hurricane force winds inland'.

University of Georgia's Marshall Shepherd, a former president of the American Meteorological Society, called it a "life-altering event" on Facebook and said he watched the storm's growth on satellite images with a pit growing in his stomach.

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