Science

Still far off, Michael a growing menace to Florida Panhandle

Still far off, Michael a growing menace to Florida Panhandle”

A Tropical Storm Watch covered the area from the Chassahowitzka River to Anna Maria Island, including Tampa Bay.

- One Bay Area school district is planning to cancel classes now that Tropical Storm Michael has reached hurricane strength and is expected to get even stronger before hitting the Florida Panhandle.

On Monday morning, Michael was about 70 miles west of Cuba and had sustained winds of 70 mph range with higher gusts, said the National Hurricane Center.

Rainfall could lead to flash flooding in Florida's panhandle and Big Bend regions, as well as in the Carolinas, through Thursday, the National Hurricane Center said. But within hours Sunday it had gained more punch and its top sustained winds clocked in at 60 mph (95 kph) by late Sunday evening.

"Michael is forecast to be a hurricane, and possibly a major hurricane when it reaches the northeastern Gulf Coast by mid-week, and storm surge and hurricane watches are now in effect for portions of the area", the Center added. (The 11am ET forecast on Monday from the National Hurricane Center calls for 120mph winds for Michael at landfall).

A Hurricane Watch has been issued along the Florida Gulf Coast from the Alabama-Florida border to the Suwanee River.

Forecasters also measure hurricane intensity by central pressure, with lower pressures denoting a tighter circulation, better organization, and more powerful storm.

Michael is now officially a Category 1 hurricane, and is expected to be a Category 3 when it makes landfall Wednesday.

An Air Force hurricane hunter airplane was sent into the storm to investigate, the hurricane center said.

A storm is designated a Category 1 hurricane if it reaches speeds of 74 miles per hour (119 kph) or more, and a Category 3 hurricane at 111 miles per hour (178 kph) or more on the five-step Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale.

Mandatory evacuation orders were issued on Monday for residents in various areas in Gulf Country, Florida, according to a statement from county emergency officials.

Forecasters say it could become a unsafe Category 2 hurricane by the time of an expected midweek landfall on the Gulf Coast in the Florida Panhandle. Needless to say, Michael should be taken seriously.

Chief Meteorologist Brad Panovich said anywhere from Panama City to Cedar Key, Florida could see significant storm surge from Hurricane Michael.

The storm is 140 miles east-northeast of Cozumel, Mexico - 50 miles south of the western tip of Cuba, according to an 11 a.m. ET advisory.

After landfall, Michael is forecast to move northeastward over Georgia and the Carolinas, where recovery from Hurricane Florence is ongoing.



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