Climate

Hurricane Michael to Hit Florida Panhandle as Cat 4 Storm

The most powerful hurricane to hit the United States this year is scheduled to make landfall on Florida’s panhandle at around 2 PM Eastern time on October 10.

Hurricane Michael on its way to a Category 4 landfall on Florida's panhandle. Photo: NOAA

Hurricane Michael, which formed days ago in the Western Caribbean, was supposed to be at most a category 1 or 2 storm, based on forecasts only two days ago. Instead it is currently on track to cut into Florida’s panhandle with Category 4 sustained winds of 130 miles-per-hour or more.

As this is written around 1 AM eastern time on October 10, the hurricane is projected to cross into Florida somewhere between Destin to Apalachee Bay, according to the National Hurricane Center. It will then move northeast, taking a path across Georgia and up into the Carolinas, which are already recovering for the torrential rains and floods of Hurricane Florence not long ago. The storm is currently moving due north at a speed of 12 miles per hour. Assuming the tracking speed stays as the hurricane veers northwest. Hurricane Michael should cross back out into the Atlantic by sometime Thursday night.

National Hurricane Forecast of projected path for Hurricane Michael as of 2 AM EDT on October 10. Photo: National Hurricane Center

A hurricane warning is currently in effect from the Alabama-Florida border over to the Suwannee River in Florida. There is also a hurricane watch running from the same north/south state border heading east to the Mississippi-Alabama border.

According to the National Hurricane Center, a high storm surge is also predicted running along Florida’s gulf coast, from under the panhandle down to Lakeland, south of Orlando on the state’s west coast. Some forecasters are projecting the surge could run as high as 12 feet above normal. The storm surge watch is in effect from the Okaloosa and Walton county line westward to Florida’s border with Alabama, and from the Anclote to Anna Maria Island.

Governor Rick Scott of Florida asked his state’s residents to evacuate from the most dangerous areas as ordered, saying that this was a storm which “could bring total devastation to parts of our state”. During a stop at the state’s emergency operations center in Tallahassee, the state capital and a city also well inside the direct path of the storm, he said that, “Hurricane Michael is a monstrous storm, and the forecast keeps getting more dangerous.”

With potentially deadly winds, rain and flooding all coming together with the storm surge, evacuation orders are already out covering a total of 375,000 people. Those evacuation orders extend to at least part of as many as 18 counties in Florida.

Utilities are also getting ready for likely power outages in large regions within the path of the storm. Gulf Power, Florida Power & Light, Duke Energy Florida, and a number of public utilities have lined up over 15,000 workers ready to be deployed as needed to get necessary utilities back up and running after the disaster as quickly as possible.

30 shelters have also been opened for those who need them. In addition, the state has activated an estimated 2,500 National Guard members and has begun to deploy specialized search-and-rescue teams in the area.