Florida declares emergency in 26 counties as Tropical Storm Michael approaches

Alicia Cross
October 9, 2018

As of the 5 p.m. advisory, Michael is now a Category 1 hurricane with sustained winds of 80 miles per hour. Movement was to the north at 7 miles per hour and the central pressure was 982 millibars.

Rick Scott issued an order for a state of emergency for 26 counties to rush preparations in the Florida Panhandle and the Big Bend area, freeing up resources and activating 500 members of the Florida National Guard.

Though Michael's impact on Northeast Florida could be hard to predict, emergency operation centers in the area are preparing for the storm.

Michael is the 13th named storm of the 2018 hurricane season.

A hurricane watch is now posted for the northeast Gulf Coast from the Alabama/Florida border to Suwanee River, Florida.

Forecast projections show it strengthening to a category 3 storm with sustained winds of 120 miles per hour before making landfall along Florida Panhandle sometime late Wednesday night/early Thursday morning. There is also a threat of tornadoes, especially if the storm moves to the west of Myrtle Beach.

Michael's large size, strong winds and heavy rains could produce hazardous flooding along a stretch of Florida's Gulf coast with many rivers and estuaries where seawater pushed ashore by a hurricane could get trapped, said Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham.

As forecast, Michael would be the first Category 3 or higher hurricane to hit the Panhandle since Hurricane Dennis in 2005.

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In addition to parts of western and northern Florida, a hurricane watch is also in effect for Mobile, Alabama and surrounding areas.

The governor declared a state of emergency for Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, Walton, Holmes, Washington, Bay, Jackson, Calhoun, Gulf, Gadsden, Liberty, Franklin, Leon, Wakulla, Jefferson, Madison, Taylor, Hamilton, Suwannee, Lafayette, Dixie, Columbia, Gilchrist, Levy and Citrus counties.

"We're cleaning all of the storm drains", said Michael Cullum, director of St. Augustine's Public Works Department.

"By tonight, a large trough centered over the southwestern United States will cause the hurricane to accelerate northeastward. It is critical that you take care of yourself, your family, and your business as Hurricane Michael approaches FL", Scott wrote on Twitter on Monday.

There are no coastal watches or warnings in effect, according to the agency.

The governor also activated 1,250 National Guardsmen and said he would waive tolls for residents who were evacuating. Michael is forecast to intensify as it tracks into the Gulf of Mexico and threaten the northeastern Gulf Coast by Wednesday, and could reach category three status. (The 11am ET forecast on Monday from the National Hurricane Center calls for 120mph winds for Michael at landfall).

It's expected to move over the Yucatan Channel and then crosses the Gulf of Mexico, nearing the Florida Panhandle coast by Wednesday.

Other reports by Free-Prsite

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