Florida braces itself for Hurricane Michael – Evacuations ordered

US Gulf Coast bracing for 'monstrous' Hurricane Michael

Residents of northwest Florida had until early Tuesday to leave their homes ahead of Hurricane Michael, forecast to crash ashore midweek as a major life-threatening storm with flash flooding possible.

Hurricane Michael, now a Category 1 hurricane is verging onto Cuba, is forecast to be a “dangerous major hurricane” when it smacks the US Gulf Coast on Wednesday

Governor Rick Scott´s office said mandatory evacuation orders were in place for parts of Bay County, which includes the popular Panama City beach resort, and areas in nearby Gulf and Franklin counties.

“Every family must be prepared. We can rebuild your home, but we cannot rebuild your life,” Scott said.

The alert came after the tropical storm system strengthened to a Category 1 hurricane, packing maximum sustained winds late Monday of 85 miles (140 km) per hour, the Miami-based National Hurricane Center said.

By 0001 GMT (Tuesday), Michael was off the western tip of Cuba´s Pinar del Rio province, churning to the north at 12 miles per hour (19 km), across from Mexico´s Yucatan peninsula. Michael was forecast to push through warm, relatively shallow Gulf of Mexico waters before moving inland over the northern Gulf coast of Florida.

Florida is in ‘prep mode’

Since the storm will spend two to three days over the Gulf of Mexico, which has very warm water temperatures and favourable atmospheric conditions, “there is a real possibility that Michael will strengthen to a major hurricane before landfall,” Robbie Berg, a hurricane specialist at the Miami-based storm forecasting hub, wrote in an advisory.

Late Monday, Michael’s centre was about 485 miles south of Panama City, Florida and 450 miles south of Apalachicola, with the storm moving northward at 12 miles per hour.

A large mound of sand has been whittled away within hours Monday as residents filled sandbags to prepare for potential flooding. A couple breweries in the city offered free filtered water to anyone bringing in growlers, jugs or other containers.

“All indications are that it’s going to be severe,” said City Commissioner Gil Ziffer, adding that if the storm hits Florida’s capital, there would be significant tree damage and power outages. “Hopefully we will have no one hurt and no loss of life.”

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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