Florida braces for lethal floods as hurricane nears

Christopher Davidson
October 11, 2018

Michael could cause erosion at the base of sand dunes along three-fourths of Florida Panhandle beaches, the U.S. Geological Service said.

Hurricane Michael is threatening more than 300 miles of the Gulf Coast, prompting emergency declarations in more than 35 counties from Mobile, Alabama through the Florida Panhandle and into the state's Big Bend region.

The National Hurricane Center, citing Michael's unsafe trifecta of storm surge, flash flooding and winds, described the seventh hurricane of the Atlantic season as "life-threatening", and the Florida Division of Emergency Management warned on Twitter of the storm's "rapid intensification" ahead of landfall.

Florida State University announced it was closing for the week on Tuesday, along with schools in Leon county, home to the state capital Tallahassee. Evacuations already had been ordered in parts of 10 counties, according to USA Today.

"We've practiced this many times". Storm surge could reach a monstrous 12 feet in some areas - enough to "easily go over the roofs of some houses", he said.

The Republican governor, who is campaigning for a US Senate seat in the November congressional elections, warned of the potential for a deadly storm surge that could be as much as 12 feet (3.7 meters) above normal sea water levels. With Hurricane Michael's landfall on the Gulf Coast expected on Wednesday, officials in coastal counties were preparing for evacuations and emergencies.

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In terms of wind intensity, that would make it stronger than Hurricane Florence, which had winds of 90 miles per hour when it blew ashore in North Carolina last month.

As of 5 a.m. ET on October 9, Michael's center was about 420 miles south of Panama City, Florida and 390 miles south of Apalachicola, Florida.

Past year saw a string of catastrophic storms batter the western Atlantic - including Irma, Maria and Hurricane Harvey - causing a record-equaling US$125 billion in damage when it flooded the Houston metropolitan area. "They are their best first responders".

"Historically, hurricanes that approach the Florida coast in this area tend to weaken slightly prior to landfall, but little difference in impact related to wind and storm surge is likely regardless", Kottlowski said. That's actually an encouraging total compared to the weather agency's $60 billion damage estimate from Florence.

After a few areas of light showers this evening, more rain and damaging winds are on the way to Middle Georgia as Michael makes landfall and quickly moves inland.

"We expect less rain to fall when compared to Florence", said AccuWeather senior meteorologist Dan Kottlowski.

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