Florida braces for lethal floods as hurricane nears

Florida braces for lethal floods as hurricane nears

Florida braces for lethal floods as hurricane nears

Residents of Florida's Panhandle frantically filled sandbags, boarded up homes and secured boats Monday as they anxiously awaited Hurricane Michael, which forecasters warned could smash into the state's Gulf Coast as a unsafe major hurricane within days.

With the center of the storm targeting the central Florida Panhandle, that part of the area will get storm surge, hurricane wind heavy rain and possible tornadoes.

With maximum sustained winds of 80 miles per hour while moving north at 9 miles per hour, Michael is now "bringing hurricane-force winds and heavy rainfall to western Cuba" as storm surge and hurricane warnings have been issued for the northeastern area of the Gulf Coast.

Litschauer said the area likely will tropical storm force winds from Michael from Tuesday evening into Wednesday morning and could see 2 to 4 feet of storm surge along the coast with an additional 2 to 8 inches of rain. Michael was located about 60 miles north-northwest of the western tip of Cuba and was moving north at 12 mph.

After hitting Florida, the storm is forecast to move up the East Coast on Wednesday and Thursday and batter the Carolinas, which are still recovering from Hurricane Florence last month.

Florida State University said its campuses in Tallahassee and Panama City would be closed from Tuesday through Friday.

According to the hurricane center, one potential impact from a Category 3 hurricane is that "electricity and water will be unavailable for several days to weeks after the storm passes".

By 4 p.m. Monday, Michael's top sustained winds were around 75 miles per hour (120 kph).

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The likelihood that Flagler County will receive some sustained tropical storm force winds is between 18 and 40 percent, a county-issued advisory stated in late afternoon. The governor warned people who live in the Big Bend and Florida Panhandle to prepare for flooding and high winds.

Aside from winds potentially nearing 200 km/h, the storm's main impacts are expected to include extreme rainfall (up to and exceeding 250 mm in the worst-hit areas of the panhandle), flooding, the the potential for "life-threatening" mudslides in mountainous areas along its route.

"It would be a tropical storm for us", Saavedra said.

Throughout Tuesday, Close said these storms will increase in scope and a few thunderstorms will emerge. Hurricane Warnings have been posted for the Florida Panhandle and the Big Bend.

Earlier Monday, Scott expanded the state of emergency he declared on Sunday from 26 to 35 counties.

Further strengthening is forecast as it moves northward across the Gulf of Mexico. Michael is expected to produce 1-3 inches of rain, with higher totals possible in some areas.

The storm was expected to brush the westernmost province of Pinar Del Rio, where most of Cuba's famed cigar tobacco is grown, before continuing north to the United States.

Oil companies, including BP, Equinor, Exxon Mobil Corp and BHP Billiton, on Monday started evacuating personnel from oil and gas production platforms as Hurricane Michael began its trek up the eastern U.S. Gulf of Mexico. Officials also alerted residents living on the coast of the possibility of flooding caused by the storm.

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