NOAA Says It’s Category 3 With 120 Mph Winds, Storm Surge

  • NOAA Says It’s Category 3 With 120 Mph Winds, Storm Surge

NOAA Says It’s Category 3 With 120 Mph Winds, Storm Surge

Michael is now centered about 360 miles south of Panama City, Florida, and landfall is likely to occur sometime around midday Wednesday between the Florida Panhandle and the state's Big Bend.

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.

The National Hurricane Center said the storm was moving north-northwestward through the southern Gulf of Mexico, and that storm surge and hurricane warnings were in effect for the northeastern Gulf coast.

Michael, which increased to a Category 1 hurricane midday Monday, will rapidly intensify over the next 24 to 36 hours, Orrock said.

Michael is expected to be the strongest hurricane, based on wind speeds, to make landfall in the continental United States since Irma in September of previous year.

The region should brace for "major infrastructure damage", specifically to electricity distribution, wastewater treatment systems and transportation networks, Jeff Byard, associate administrator for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), told reporters on a conference call.

Florida State University announced it was closing for the week on Tuesday, along with schools in Leon county, home to the state capital Tallahassee. "My greatest concern is not having electricity, and living on a fixed income, losing my food". The storm is expected to cause wide-spread power outages, high winds and heavy rain in Alabama.

A hurricane warning was in effect for the Alabama-Florida border to the Suwannee River, with a hurricane watch in place from the Alabama-Florida border to the Mississippi-Alabama border. "You can not hide from this storm".

Some of the storm's most significant early impact was to offshore energy production. USA producers in the Gulf cut oil production by about 40 percent and natural gas output by 28 percent on Tuesday, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement said. In Georgia, Gov. Nathan Deal declared a preemptive state of emergency for 92 counties.

Some Panama City residents were seen on the beach enjoying the cool breeze ahead of the storm, while others were loading up cars with luggage and visitors were checking out of hotels. Those who stayed emptied grocery store shelves of water and other supplies.

Torrential downpours and flash flooding from the storm over the weekend caused 13 deaths in Central America.

The first rains from Michael were already beginning to soak the Florida Keys on Monday, with up to four inches (10 centimeters) expected to fall through Tuesday.