Hurricane Michael heads toward Florida Panhandle, 13 deaths in its wake

Hurricane Michael heads toward Florida Panhandle, 13 deaths in its wake

Hurricane Michael heads toward Florida Panhandle, 13 deaths in its wake

The U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) said that the storm will hit the Florida Panhandle or Florida Big Bend area on Wednesday before hitting the southeastern United States on Wednesday night and Thursday.

Mandatory evacuation orders were issued for residents of barrier islands, mobile homes and low-lying coastal areas in Gulf, Wakulla and Bay counties.

As of 5 p.m. EDT, Michael was 295 miles (470 kilometers) south of Panama City, speeding northward at 12 mph (19 kph).

In addition to hurricane-force winds and heavy rain, storm surge flooding is a big concern along the Florida Gulf coast.

Forecasters said it could bring 3 to 6 inches of rain to Georgia, the Carolinas and Virginia, triggering flash flooding in a corner of the country still recovering from Florence.

According to NHC, the worst storm surge is expected between Mexico Beach and Keaton Beach in Florida where nine to 13 feet of inundation is possible.

Evacuations have been ordered in parts of 10 counties.

"We saw hardly any requests for critical commodities, local officials were still debating whether or not to close businesses and schools, and we barely heard anything regarding sheltering considerations", Maul wrote, adding the state had been "absolutely prepared" for those requests.

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

Scientists have long warned that global warming will make storms more destructive, and some say the evidence for this may already be visible.

By 8am on Tuesday (1am Wednesday NZT), top winds had reached 155kmh, and it was forecast to strengthen into a "major" Category 3 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of more than 179kmh.

Hurricane Michael would be the first major hurricane to hit the panhandle since Hurricane Dennis in 2005, which made landfall near Pensacola, according to hurricane centre data.

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As the storm moved north it battered Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula and western Cuba with drenching rains and winds of up to 80 miles per hour (130 kph), the Miami-based hurricane centre said.

Kemp said the bill totaled over $800 when she and her family fled Hurricane Irma's uncertain path previous year.

The Republican governor, who is campaigning for a US Senate seat in the November congressional elections, warned of the potential for a deadly storm surge that could be as much as 12 feet (3.7 meters) above normal sea water levels.

Around 2,000 National Guard members have been put on duty to monitor conditions. There is also little chance that the storm's path will shift majorly east or west, based on the latest models.

AccuWeather chief Joel Myers said Michael is forecast to roll through the region much more quickly than did the lingering Florence, which dumped up to 40 inches of rain in some areas.

Lines have formed at petrol stations and people have been stocking up on emergency food supplies.

"You can not hide from storm surge, so. get out if an evacuation is ordered", he said.

Volusia County Beach Safety secured non-essential equipment off of the beach due to the predicted wind and swell, said spokeswoman Captain Tamara Malphurs. Hurricane-force winds extended outward up to 35 miles from the center and tropical-storm-force winds were outward up to 185 miles.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey declared a state of emergency for her state Tuesday because of expected wide-spread power outages and wind damage.

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, Florida's Democratic nominee for governor, helped people fill sandbags.

Two years ago, Hurricane Hermine knocked out power for days in Tallahassee and caused widespread flooding as it came up through the Gulf Coast.

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