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

Michael strengthens into Category 2 hurricane

Michael strengthens into Category 2 hurricane

Up to 12 inches of rain could fall in Florida's Panhandle and Big Bend, southeastern Alabama and southern Georgia, while parts of the Carolinas - recently deluged by Hurricane Florence - and southern Virginia eventually could see up to 6 inches, the hurricane center said.

Mark Wallheiser via Getty Images People line up for gasoline outside Tallahassee, Florida, on Monday as Hurricane Michael bears down on the northern Gulf coast.

The system has now graduated to Category 2 hurricane status and is expected to reach Category 3 (with winds in excess of 110 mph) when it makes its USA mainland landfall on Wednesday afternoon.

North Carolina and SC will likely see heavy rainfall, which could cause flooding in areas already damaged by last month's Hurricane Florence. Key messages from the National Hurricane Center are below.

"Storm surge is absolutely deadly", Scott said. If the Hurricane Center's forecast track shifts further westward, that would be good news for the area, he said. Some southern Alabama counties were under a tropical storm watch Monday afternoon.

Many are located in the coastal town of Port St. Joe, the county's largest municipality, lying directly in the hurricane's projected path, she said.

He said: "Today is about life and safety".

Peaton says he's working closely with the National Weather Service to provide accurate information and protective measures to his county, which faces the Gulf of Mexico and is especially vulnerable to any flooding produced by Michael. Hurricane-force winds extended outward up to 35 miles (56 kilometers) from the core and tropical-storm-force winds out 175 miles (280 kilometers).

Florida Gov. Rick Scott called Michael a "monstrous hurricane" with a devastating potential from high winds, storm surge and heavy rains. Up to 15 inches of rain is possible near where the storm makes landfall.

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Scott, after getting a briefing at 8 a.m.at the State Emergency Operations Center, urged people who plan to evacuate to do so Tuesday morning, as he continued to expand the activation of the Florida National Guard in advance of Michael's landfall.

"I haven't made up my mind yet, but I know some of my staff are going", said Dave Trepanier, owner of Firefly, a restaurant a block from the beach in Panama City, Bay County, an area where the hurricane is expected to come ashore.

As the storm closed in on the US, it caused havoc in the Caribbean.

Snapper Tams, a passenger on the Royal Caribbean ship, posted video footage of stormy seas, heavy rain, and harsh winds near the ship.

Emergency officials in both counties and statewide are closely watching the hurricane.

The agency says erosion could be even worse in about a fourth of the Panhandle's white-sand beaches, particularly areas east of the eye, as a storm surge on top of high surf could see waves as high as 16 to 20 feet washing over the top of the protective dune line.

"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 his city on the shore of Apalachicola Bay, which where about 90 percent of Florida's oysters are harvested.

He warned of potential deadly impacts from a storm surge that could be as much as 12 feet (3.7 meters) over normal sea water levels, and winds that could rise to 110 miles per hour (177 kph). It is expected to become a hurricane by Tuesday.

State Emergency Management Director Wes Maul, in talking to his staff a few minutes after Scott's news conference, expressed concern that county shelters have had to quickly set up because Michael formed in a short period of time over the weekend.

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