Hurricane Michael is not letting up. It went from a Category 1 on Monday to a Category 2 by Tuesday morning. As it picks up speed through the Gulf of Mexico it’s forecast to strengthen to a Category 3 with the help of warmer-than-normal waters.
At 8 o’clock Tuesday morning (EDT) the eye of the storm was almost 400 miles south of Panama City Beach but will strike near this area Wednesday afternoon with winds possibly up to 111-129 mph. Tropical storm force winds of 39-73 mph were measured nearly 100 miles from the eyewall and will produce storm surge and possible power outages as early as Tuesday night along the Florida panhandle.
Hurricane Warning and Storm Surge Warnings have been posted by the National Hurricane Center for much of Florida’s northern Gulf coast. States of emergency have been declared for 35 counties in Florida, and mandatory evacuations began on Monday for several counties, according to the state’s Division of Emergency Management. Also, according to the Tallahassee Democrat, state officials are extending voter registration deadlines for people affected by the hurricane.
Michael has the potential to cause catastrophic wind damage, as well as major flooding from heavy rain and 8-12 foot storm surges. This will result in widespread power outages, fuel shortages, and transportation delays along the I-10 corridor. Because the storm is expected to be fast-moving, the flooding effects won’t last as long as those from Hurricane Florence, but effects of wind damage will be worse.
Jeff Byard, FEMA’s Associate Administrator for Response and Recovery, told CNN that “Damage to the power infrastructure will be more significant than Florence because of downed power poles.”
Michael will weaken to a Tropical Storm within 12 hours after landfall, but cotton crops in south Georgia could suffer wind and flood damage. Soy and tobacco crops in the Carolinas, as well as chicken and hog farms, could also be damaged as the storm moves through this region on Thursday.
Michael is forecast to remain at Tropical Storm strength as it hits near the Virginia-North Carolina line early Friday before entering the Atlantic Ocean.