Michael, now a Category 3 major hurricane, is forcing shutdowns as people along Florida’s Gulf coast brace for the storm. Administrative offices in the capital city of Tallahassee will be closed through Thursday. Commercial flights in and out of Tallahassee International Airport (code: TLH) will stop at 12:01 a.m. EDT on Wednesday, resuming Thursday, October 11 at 8 a.m. City buses will temporarily stop service at 7 o’clock Tuesday evening. Tallahassee is the biggest city nearest to Michael’s projected direct path and has a population of around 190,000.
Also, flights are being canceled at the Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport (code:ECP) in Panama City Beach, 92 miles to the west of Tallahassee.
Tallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum said in a press conference this afternoon (Tuesday) that several official storm shelters are open, and that 80 people from 25 city and Leon County agencies are working together to help the city through final preparations and to be in place for clean up and rebuilding.
The city could see significant flooding from heavy rain, but wind damage seemed to be the mayor’s bigger concern. Gillum says about half of Tallahassee is covered by large canopies of trees, many of which could be blown onto power lines across the city. Hundreds of extra utility workers from other areas have been asked to be on standby to come help.
Michael will likely cause widespread power outages and could delay or stop ground transportation on portions of the I-10 corridor from Mobile, Alabama to Lake City, Florida. This stretch of I-10 sees moderate amounts of daily long-haul truck traffic.
However, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) Southern Service Center issued a state of emergency declaration making it okay for motor carriers and drivers to directly assist in transporting supplies, equipment, fuel, and people into and from affected areas.
In the update from the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, shut-in oil production was reported at 670,831 b/d, or just under 40% of total Gulf of Mexico production. Natural gas output has seen 726 MMCF/s, or 28.4% of Gulf of Mexico production, shut in.
The numbers on evacuations are that 75 platforms have been evacuated, or 10.9% of all GOM platforms; 3 rigs, or 13.6% of the GOM total; and 8 movable right, which is just under 50% of the total.
The relatively small number of platforms that have been evacuated is a sign that the storm’s track is mostly east of the major production areas, though the ones that have been evacuated are productive enough to take almost 40% of output offline.
Most of the nearly 40 oil refineries along the Gulf should spared major damage. Based on mapping from the U.S. Energy Information System and the latest forecast from the National Hurricane Center, only a few of the refineries are in a high chance area of tropical storm force winds, mainly near the Mobile.
Michael’s maximum sustained winds stand at 120 mph. It’s forecast to remain a Category 3 major hurricane at landfall near Panama City Beach around early afternoon on Wednesday.