Florida gov­er­nor says ‘you can­not hide’ as storm strength­ens

USA TODAY International Edition - - NEWS - John Ba­con and Doyle Rice

Hur­ri­cane Michael strengthened to a ma­jor hur­ri­cane Tues­day af­ter­noon as it roared to­ward Florida’s Gulf Coast, threat­en­ing to wreak dev­as­ta­tion on a state wal­loped by Hur­ri­cane Irma 13 months ago. The Na­tional Hur­ri­cane Cen­ter warned that Michael could make land­fall Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon near Panama City, 100 miles west of Tallahassee as a Cat­e­gory 3 storm with tor­ren­tial rains and sus­tained winds of up to 120 mph. “Hur­ri­cane Michael is fore­cast to be the most de­struc­tive storm to hit the Florida Pan­han­dle in decades,” Gov. Rick Scott said. “It will be life-threat­en­ing and ex­tremely dan­ger­ous. You can­not hide from this storm.” Scott de­clared a state of emer­gency for 35 coun­ties and ac­ti­vated 2,500 Na­tional Guard troops. More than 300 state troop­ers were made avail­able for de­ploy­ment. On Tues­day af­ter­noon, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump ap­proved an emer­gency dec­la­ra­tion for Florida. Evac­u­a­tions were or­dered in parts of 10 coun­ties. More than 100,000 peo­ple were or­dered out of a long swath of low-ly­ing com­mu­ni­ties, in­clud­ing many in Bay County, home of Panama City. “We’ve prac­ticed this many times. This is game time,” Bay County Sher­iff Tommy Ford said. “This is the real thing.” Much of the state saw the “real thing” last year, when Hur­ri­cane Irma forced more than 6 mil­lion peo­ple to flee, flooded cities and left mil­lions with­out power. The re­pair bill came in at more than $60 bil­lion, rank­ing Irma among the costli­est storms in U.S. his­tory. Michael could cause ero­sion at the base of sand dunes along three­fourths of Florida Pan­han­dle beaches, the U.S. Ge­o­log­i­cal Ser­vice said. It could in­un­date more than one-fourth of that coast’s dunes, caus­ing flood­ing be­hind the pro­tec­tive dune line, said Kara Do­ran, leader of the USGS Coastal Change Haz­ards Storm Team. Scott said the Florida Pan­han­dle, south­east Alabama and south­ern Ge­or­gia will see 4 to 8 inches of rain, and iso­lated ar­eas could face 12 inches. Storm surge could reach a mon­strous 12 feet in some ar­eas – enough to “eas­ily go over the roofs of some houses,” he said. Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey is­sued a state of emer­gency in an­tic­i­pa­tion of wide­spread power out­ages, wind dam­age and de­bris. In Ge­or­gia, Gov. Nathan Deal de­clared a state of emer­gency for 92 coun­ties. “I ask all Ge­or­gians to join me in pray­ing for the safety of our peo­ple and all those in the path of Hur­ri­cane Michael,” Deal said. In North Carolina, still reel­ing from Hur­ri­cane Florence last month, Gov. Roy Cooper warned that Michael could bring mod­er­ate storm surge, downed trees and power out­ages to his sod­den state. Fed­eral Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency Ad­min­is­tra­tor Brock Long said FEMA was pre­pared in all the states in Michael’s path.

NICK TOMECEK/AP

Rick John­son fills sand bags at his Okaloosa Is­land home in Fort Wal­ton Beach, Fla.

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