Michael strengthens into a hurricane, threatens Florida
MIAMI (AP) — A tropical weather system that rapidly strengthened into Hurricane Michael on Monday is likely to intensify ahead of an expected strike on Florida’s Panhandle by midweek, forecasters said.
Michael could strengthen into a major hurricane with winds topping 111 miles per hour by Tuesday night before an expected strike on the Panhandle or Big Bend, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Since the storm will spend two to three days over the Gulf, which has very warm water temperatures and favourable atmospheric conditions, “there is a real possibility that Michael will strengthen to a major hurricane before landfall,” Robbie Berg, a hurricane specialist at the Miami-based storm forecasting hub, wrote in an advisory.
Florida Governor Rick Scott issued an order for a state of emergency for 26 counties to rush preparations, freeing up resources and activating 500 members of the Florida National Guard.
By mid-morning Monday, a large mound of sand in Tallahassee had been already been whittled down to a small pile as residents tried to prepare for potential flooding.
A city of Tallahassee worker promised that another mound was ordered and on its way.
All indications are that it’s going to be severe,” said City Commissioner Gil Ziffer, adding that if the storm hits Florida’s capital, there would be significant tree damage and power outages.
“Hopefully we will have no one hurt and no loss of life.”
By 11 a.m. Monday, Michael’s top sustained winds were around 75 miles per hour.
The storm was centred about 50 miles off the western tip of Cuba, and about 140 miles east-northeast of Cozumel, Mexico.
It was moving north around seven miles per hour.