Florida girds for ‘ex­tremely dan­ger­ous’ hur­ri­cane

Muscat Daily - - WORLD -

Panama City, US - Hur­ri­cane Michael closed in on Florida’s Gulf Coast on Wed­nes­day as an ‘ex­tremely dan­ger­ous’ cat­e­gory four storm pack­ing winds of up to 220km per hour and a huge sea surge, the Na­tional Hur­ri­cane Cen­ter said.

Fore­cast­ers were call­ing it an ‘un­prece­dented’ weather event for the area.

The Cen­ter said the storm could grow and is ex­pected to slam ashore in Florida as a ‘lifethreat­en­ing event’.

As outer rain­bands from the storm lashed the coast, it said a storm surge of up to four me­ters was ex­pected in some ar­eas.

Some 375,000 peo­ple in more than 20 coun­ties were or­dered or ad­vised to evac­u­ate, news re­ports said.

The Na­tional Weather Ser­vice of­fice in the state cap­i­tal Tallahassee is­sued a dra­matic ap­peal for peo­ple to com­ply with evac­u­a­tion or­ders.

‘Hur­ri­cane Michael is an un­prece­dented event and can­not be com­pared to any of our pre­vi­ous events. Do not risk your life, leave NOW if you were told to do so’, it said.

The storm was fore­cast to make land­fall some­where along the Florida Pan­han­dle - a fin­ger- shaped strip of land in the Gulf of Mex­ico. It was ex­pected to bring hur­ri­cane force winds and heavy rain­fall, the Mi­ami-based NHC said.

It will then move across the south­east­ern US for an­other day or so as it heads to­ward the At­lantic.

The NWS of­fice in Tal­la­has- see said it had found no record of any pre­vi­ous cat­e­gory four hur­ri­canes that made land­fall in the pan­han­dle or the ‘Big Bend’ coastal re­gion.

‘This sit­u­a­tion has NEVER hap­pened be­fore’, it said on Twit­ter.

Cat­e­gory four is the sec­ond high­est level on the Saf­fir-Simp­son hur­ri­cane wind scale.

Gov­er­nor Rick Scott has ac­ti­vated 2,500 mem­bers of the Na­tional Guard.

He warned Michael could be the most de­struc­tive storm to hit the Florida Pan­han­dle in decades.

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump is­sued an emer­gency dec­la­ra­tion for the state, free­ing up fed­eral funds for relief op­er­a­tions and pro­vid­ing the as­sis­tance of the Fed­eral Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency.

State of­fi­cials is­sued dis­as­ter dec­la­ra­tions in Alabama and Ge­or­gia, both of which are also ex­pected to feel the im­pact from the storm.

As of 1000 GMT, Michael was about 195km south of Panama City and mov­ing north at 20km per hour.

The NHC said some ar­eas of the Florida coast could ex­pect storm surges of nine to 13 feet and as much as a foot of rain.

The heavy rains could cause flash floods, the NHC said, and spawn tor­na­dos in north­west­ern Florida.

About 120,000 res­i­dents were un­der manda­tory evac­u­a­tion or­ders in Bay County in the Pan­han­dle, a low-ly­ing area of beach­front re­sorts and re­tire­ment com­mu­ni­ties.

In other ar­eas, res­i­dents of mo­bile homes were urged to leave.

Michael was fore­cast to have the power to up­root trees, block roads and knock out power for days when it hits Florida. It is ex­pected to weaken as it moves up into the south­east­ern United States. Driv­ers waited in long lines at gas sta­tions and res­i­dents hur­ried to fill sand­bags.

Tolls were sus­pended on some roads to aid move­ment ahead of the storm’s land­fall.

The Caroli­nas are still re­cov­er­ing from Hur­ri­cane Florence, which left dozens dead and is es­ti­mated to have caused bil­lions of dol­lars in dam­age last month.

(AFP)

Waves crash against a pier as the outer bands of Hur­ri­cane Michael ar­rive in Panama City Beach, Florida on Wed­nes­day

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