Tracking Michael: Sustained winds now over 100 miles per hour for Hurricane Michael

'Potentially catastrophic' Hurricane Michael strengthens to Category 2, targets Florida

Supercharged by abnormally warm waters in the Gulf of Mexico, Michael slammed into the Florida Panhandle on Wednesday with potentially catastrophic winds of 155 miles per hour, the most powerful hurricane to hit the USA mainland in almost 50 years. It was one of the most intense hurricanes ever to hit the USA mainland and the most powerful one on record to menace the Panhandle, a roughly 200-mile stretch of fishing towns, military bases and spring-break beaches.

The storm's center is forecast to move northward over the Florida Panhandle or Florida Big Bend area by Wednesday, and then move northeastward across the southeastern United States, the NHC said.

Tolls were suspended in order to help people evacuate. Lines at gasoline stations grew as people left. With Michael's winds projected to be even stronger, residents were urged to evacuate inland. At that strength, it would rank as the most powerful storm to strike the Panhandle in more than a decade. No longer. Michael was expected to bring surging seas up 9 feet (2.75 metres) above ground level at Keaton Beach. Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 45 miles (75 km) from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 175 miles (280 km).

Tolls were being suspended in the state's northwest region to ease the evacuation process, and the Florida Highway Patrol is sending almost 350 state troopers to the Panhandle and Big Bend areas, Scott said. Weakening is expected after the storm makes landfall.

The last NHC report said the fast-moving storm was about 180 miles (325 km) from Panama City, Florida.

Michael intensified from a Category 3 storm early Wednesday, hours before its expected landfall in the afternoon. "We want to get them out of the way". Alabama/Florida border to the Mississippi/Alabama border * Suwanee River Florida to Chassahowitzka Florida * north of Fernandina Beach Florida to South Santee River South Carolina A Tropical Storm Watch is in effect for...

"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", the NHC said.


"That means the water will come miles in shore and could easily be over the roofs of houses", Scott said.

But some officials were anxious by what they weren't seeing - a rush of evacuees.

Aja Kemp, 36, planned to stay in her mobile home in Crawfordville.

"We've been through this before", she said.

Michael could dump up to a foot (30 centimetres) of rain over some Panhandle communities before its remnants go back out to sea by way of the mid-Atlantic states over the next few days. "But in my experience, it's always blown way out of proportion". That included Pensacola Beach but not in Pensacola itself, a city of about 54,000.

Warning Coordination Meteorologist Nick Petro with the National Weather Service Office in Raleigh says Michael will be a wind and rain event locally, with the possibility for gusty winds and 3-5 inches of rainfall. There is a threat of isolated tornadoes.

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