Florida residents brace for impact as ‘monstrous’ Hurricane Michael gains strength

Residents are filling sandbags and boarding up their homes as Hurricane Michael gained strength over warm waters and barrels toward Florida’s northeast Gulf Coast.

The hurricane was located about 425 miles south of Apalachicola and 455 miles south of Panama City, Florida, according to the National Hurricane Center’s 2 a.m. ET advisory on Tuesday. Wind speeds were rising according to a hurricane hunter plane, and forecasters cautioned that the storm could morph into a major hurricane with winds topping 111 mph by Tuesday night. Michael’s top sustained winds had reach 90 mph as it headed north at 12 mph, according to the center’s advisory.

This satellite image provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows a view of Tropical Storm Michael, lower right, churning as it heads toward the Florida Panhandle.

(NOAA via AP) Hurricane-force winds extended outward up to 35 miles from the core and tropical-storm-force winds out 175 miles.With the storm next entering the eastern part of the Gulf of Mexico, which has warm water and favorable atmospheric conditions, “there is a real possibility that Michael will strengthen to a major hurricane before landfall,” Robbie Berg, a hurricane specialist at the Miami-based storm forecasting hub, wrote in an advisory.Michael was battering western Cuba with “hurricane-force winds and heavy rainfall” Monday evening, prompting a storm surge and hurricane warnings to be issued for the northeastern area of the Gulf Coast.Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey on Monday declared a state of emergency for the entire state as the storm pushes its way toward the southern U.S.”Alabama is once again in the path of a hurricane, but I know Alabamians will once again come together and be prepared for whatever Michael may bring,” Ivey stated.The governor noted that while state officials are prepared for the storm, she said “now is the time for residents in south Alabama to review your emergency preparedness plans and also get prepared” — warning that those in Michael’s path “will need to take shelter by [Tuesday] evening.”Neighboring Florida Gov. Rick Scott issued a state of emergency on Sunday to 35 counties, and mandatory evacuations were ordered for residents of the state’s barrier islands, mobile homes and low-lying coastal areas in Gulf, Wakulla and Bay counties.

October 8 Commercial boats leave the Destin Harbor in Destin, Florida

(Devon Ravine/Northwest Florida Daily News via AP) He urged residents to wrap up their final storm preparations Monday, calling Michael a “monstrous storm” with great destructive potential. He also waived tolls in a move to help coastal dwellers leave.Scott also warned caregivers at north Florida hospitals and nursing homes to take care of their patients, after 14 people were killed last year when a South Florida nursing home lost power and air conditioning during Hurricane Irma. “If you’re responsible for a patient, you’re responsible for the patient. Take care of them,” he said.The state’s Big Bend area, where the storm is expected to make landfall on Wednesday, could see up to 12 feet of storm surge, according to forecasters. Michael is also expected to hit the Panhandle that day, with the potential to dump up to a foot of rain in the area.The U.S. military was moving its aircraft from the Panhandle on Monday. An Air Force spokesperson told Fox News that roughly 50 F-22 stealth fighter jets — valued around $150 million each — have been relocated from the Tyndall Air Force Base, while the U.S. Navy said it is moving all its training aircraft from Pensacola.Residents on the Florida panhandle were reminded rescue teams would not be able to reach them during or immediately after the hurricane hits, “If you decide to stay in your home and a tree falls on your house or the storm surge catches you and you’re now calling for help, there’s no one that can respond to help you,” Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan said at a news conference.

Tallahassee Mayor and Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Andrew Gillum, left, helps Eboni Sipling fill up sandbags in Tallahassee, Fla., Monday, Oct. 8, 2018.

(AP)More than 2,000 residents in the small Panhandle city of Apalachicola were making filling sandbags, stocking up on groceries and boarding up homes for what Mayor Van Johnson Sr. described as a hurricane with “significant impact.” “We’re looking at a significant storm with significant impact, possibly greater than I’ve seen in my 59 years of life,” Johnson said. Similar preparations were underway in Tallahassee, Fl., as residents quickly turned a large mound of sand into a small pile. “Today it is about life and safety,” Tallahassee Mayor, and Florida’s Democratic nominee for governor, Andrew Gillum said. “There’s nothing between us and this storm but warm water and I think that’s what terrifies us about the potential impacts.”Fox News’ Nicole Darrah and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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