Hurricane Michael projected to strengthen to Category 4 storm before landfall
Hurricane Michael is forecast to strengthen to a category 4 storm before it makes landfall Wednesday, bringing torrential rains and life-threatening winds to the Florida Panhandle, the National Hurricane Center said.
The current Category 3 storm’s maximum sustained winds increased to 125 mph late Tuesday, and are projected to slam the Panhandle at around 130 mph, the NHC said.
“This is going to have structure damaging winds along the coast and hurricane force winds inland,” meteorologist Ryan Maue of weathermodels.com told the Associated Press.
The Florida Panhandle could see storm surges of up to 13 feet, life-threatening hurricane winds, heavy rainfall and flash-flooding, the NHC said.
The chance of tornadoes will also increase into Wednesday over parts of the Florida Panhandle, the northern Florida Peninsula and southern Georgia, the agency said.
The storm, which formed off the coast of northern Honduras, has already killed at least 13 people in Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador after torrential rains triggered flash-flooding and landslides in Central America over the weekend.
Evacuations of about 375,000 people have been called for ahead of the fast-strengthening storm, Florida officials said.
President Donald Trump on Tuesday approved a pre-landfall emergency declaration at the request of Florida Gov. Rick Scott. The declaration will provide resources and assistance from the federal government, including personnel, equipment and funding for emergency protective measures.
Scott on Sunday issued an order for a state of emergency for 26 counties to rush preparations in the Panhandle and the Big Bend area, freeing up resources and activating 500 members of the Florida National Guard ahead of Tropical Storm Michael. Scott expanded the order on Monday to encompass 35 counties.
“This storm will be life-threatening and extremely dangerous,” Scott said Sunday after receiving a briefing at the State Emergency Operations Center. He warned that storm surge could affect areas of Florida not in the storm’s direct path.
As of late Tuesday, the storm was located about 200 miles south-southwest of Apalachicola, Fla., and 220 miles south-southwest of Panama City as it moved north at 12 mph.
Fox News’ Jennifer Earl and the Associated Press contributed to this report.