Punishing Hurricane Michael bears down on Florida Panhandle
(Florida): Hurricane Michael was still strengthening as it closed in on the Florida Panhandle on Wednesday with the threat of catastrophic surges of sea water and roof-shredding winds, and was expected to be the worst hurricane ever recorded in the region.
Michael caught many by surprise with its rapid intensification as it churned north over the Gulf of Mexico. Shortly after 11am ET (1500 GMT) it was carrying top winds of 150 miles per hour (241 km per hour), making it a very dangerous Category 4 storm on five-step Saffir-Simpson scale, the National Hurricane Centre said.
Authorities told residents along the affected areas of Florida’s northwest coast that they had run out of time to evacuate and should hunker down. The storm caused major disruption to oil and gas production in the US Gulf of Mexico.
Michael’s core was forecast to make landfall on Wednesday afternoon on Florida’s Panhandle and could drive sea water levels as high as 14 feet (4.3 metres) above normal in some areas, the hurricane centre said. The storm could still strengthen further before coming ashore, it said.
As the outer bands arrived, ocean water was already flooding parts of Port St. Joe. Mayor Bo Patterson said about 2,500 of the town’s 3,500 people were still there, including about 100 in a beachside area who did not follow a mandatory evacuation order.
The two bridges leading out of Port St. Joe were closed, meaning no one could get out now. “People are finally getting it, that this is going to be pretty strong,” Patterson said. “This happened so quickly, we weren’t exactly prepared.”
Michael grew from a tropical storm to Category 4 hurricane in about 40 hours. “This kind of sprung up for us quite quickly,” said Andrew Gillum, mayor of the state capital, Tallahassee, which lies about 40 km from the coast and was preparing for a battering.
“We honestly felt we might have a tropical system and weren’t sure where it would go and now we’re staring down the barrel of a Category 4 storm,” Gillum told CNN.
“Satellite images of Michael’s evolution on Tuesday night were, in a word, jaw-dropping,” wrote Bob Henson, a meteorologist with weather site Weather Underground.
Full story @ timesofoman.com/world
WARNING: A red flag, warning of dangerous conditions, is seen as Hurricane Michael approaches Panama City Beach, Florida, US October 10, 2018.