Gulf Coast Counties in Florida Prepare for Hurricane Michael’s Arrival
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By David E. Hubler
Contributor, EDM Digest
Tropical Storm Michael was upgraded to a hurricane Monday morning, the Miami Herald reported. Michael is expected to be a major Category 3 hurricane by Tuesday as it heads toward the Florida panhandle. Hurricane watches have already been issued for the area.
The National Hurricane Center (NHC) said Michael’s sustained winds have reached 75 mph and a storm surge when Michael makes landfall could be life-threatening.
The hurricane watch extends from the Alabama-Florida border eastward to the Suwanee River, where Michael could come ashore on Wednesday. Sustained winds could reach 120 mph over the next 48 hours, forecasters said.
Michael might also dump up to eight inches of rain, with 12 inches possible in some areas along the northeastern Gulf Coast. The Florida Keys are expected to get two to four inches of rain.
State of Emergency Declared for 26 Florida Counties
Florida Governor Rick Scott declared a state of emergency for 26 counties in the storm’s path and activated 500 National Guardsmen. Scott said the number of Guardsmen could be expanded later today, according to the newspaper.
“Impacts could begin tomorrow night, which means in 36 hours,” Scott said. “We know that storms like Michael can be absolutely devastating and life-threatening, and that’s why we have to take this very seriously.”
Scott told families via Twitter that they should take the opportunity “TODAY” to make sure they have three days of water as well as all needed medications. “EVERY FAMILY must be prepared. We can rebuild your home, but we cannot rebuild your life,” he tweeted.
Evacuation Ordered for Gulf County; Evacuation of Bay County Also Possible
On Monday, mandatory evacuations were posted for Gulf County on Florida’s northwest coast, CNN reported. The evacuation included the following areas:
- All of Cape San Blas
- All of Indian Pass area
- Simmons Bayou, Highland View
- Port St. Joseph -- all areas from St. Joseph Bay to Long Avenue
- Joe Beach and Beacon Hill – Waterside of Highway 98
Residents with "high-profile vehicles, living in mobile homes, low-lying areas, or anyone who feels unsafe in their current location" were also urged to evacuate, CNN said.
In neighboring Bay County, emergency operations officials said bridge closings are likely and a schedule for possible evacuations will be determined later today.
Visitors Urged to Leave and Residents Advised to Watch Weather Updates
Florida officials have urged visitors to make plans to leave immediately. Residents were advised to pay careful attention to weather updates.
Cuba and Mexican Coast Also Likely to Be Affected by Hurricane Michael
According to the NHC, Michael was moving north at 7 mph and was located about 50 miles south of Cuba’s western tip. Strong winds and heavy rain are already pounding the island. Michael’s eye will likely near the western coast of Cuba late Monday afternoon.
Tropical storm warnings are already in effect for the Mexican coast from Tulum to Cabo Catoche, as well as Pinar Del Rio and the Isle of Youth in Cuba.