Michael’s quick development from an unnamed tropical wave last weekend to a powerful high-end Category 2 hurricane by Tuesday morning has state and federal emergency managers working overtime. Unlike Florence, which became a hurricane at least a week before landfall, Michael is giving crews much less time to prepare and evacuate people.
Michael’s winds at 11 a.m. Tuesday (EDT) were 110 mph, almost at Category 3 “major hurricane” strength. It will become a life-threatening Category 3 later today, and likely stay that way when the eye hits near Panama City Beach, Florida on Wednesday afternoon.
Winds would be at 111-129 mph, pushing walls of ocean water 8-12 feet high into coastal communities from Apalachicola eastward to near Cedar Key and Suwanee. Flooding will be a major issue and should be taken seriously, but it won’t last as long as the flooding from Florence in the Carolinas in September.
Florence was a Category 1 storm at landfall with 80 mph winds. Michael’s winds will be a bigger threat, resulting in widespread, potentially catastrophic power outages, fuel shortages, transportation delays, and structural damage. This is why people have been urged to get out, even if they’re not in mandatory evacuation zones.
“Damage to the power infrastructure will be more significant than Florence because of downed power poles,” FEMA’s Associate Administrator for Response and Recovery, Jeff Byard, told CNN.
Governor Rick Scott declared states of emergency for 35 Florida counties on Monday, and ordered evacuations from several areas. Local officials in the capital city of Tallahassee and Leon County are getting shelters ready and assisting people who don’t have to evacuate and decide to ride out the storm. Tallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum has asked for hundreds of linemen from other areas to be on standby to help restore electricity after the storm. He also said in a tweet video that more than 10,000 sandbags have already been given out.
Alabama Governor Kay Ivey also issued a statewide State of Emergency on Monday, with Michael’s sights mainly set on the southeast part of the state. On Tuesday she tweeted “I urge residents...to take shelter tonight and heed all warnings from local authorities.”
Also, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that Governor Nathan Deal has declared states of emergencies for 92 of Georgia’s 159 counties.