Hurricane Michael is gaining strength as it approaches the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Over the weekend the storm was just a tropical wave south of Cuba, but it turned into a Tropical Storm on Sunday and then a hurricane by Monday morning.
The eye is expected to hit near Panama City Beach, FL, Wednesday afternoon at Category 3 strength on the Saffir-Simpson wind scale, with winds of 111-129 mph. The effects of wind, heavy rain, and storm surge will be felt much farther away in all directions and will be noticeable beginning Tuesday afternoon and evening.
This is why, according to Reuters and WTSP, Florida governor Rick Scott on Monday declared states of emergency in 35 counties along the panhandle and Big Bend, and mandatory evacuations are underway by the National Guard to get people out safely ahead of the storm.
The federal Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement also released its first data on the impact on oil and natural gas production from the coming storm late Monday. It said that approximately 19% of total Gulf of Mexico oil production, or 324,190 b/d, was shut in. For natural gas, the amount shut in was about 11% of total Gulf of Mexico production, approximately 283.8 MMCF/D.
The BSEE said 10 production platforms have been evacuated, which is not even 2% of all platforms, but no rigs have been evacuated.
Michael will likely cause significant flooding, wind damage, and power outages not just along the Gulf coast, but also in parts of southeast Alabama, south Georgia, and the Carolinas.
The last hurricane to make landfall on Florida’s Gulf coast was Hermine in early September, 2016; the last major hurricane (Category 3 or higher) was Dennis in July, 2005.