Hurricane Michael Strengthens Into Category 2 As it Barrels Towards Florida

'Potentially catastrophic' Hurricane Michael strengthens to Category 2, targets Florida

Florida has declared a state of emergency over Hurricane Michael. But fears lingered that some failed to heed the calls to get out of Michael's way as the hard-charging storm began speeding north over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. It's expected to send life-threatening surges of ocean water into coastal areas along the Gulf, from Pensacola around the coast to Tampa.

In terms of wind intensity, that would make it stronger than Hurricane Florence, which had winds of 90 miles per hour when it blew ashore in North Carolina last month. They can cause catastrophic damage and flooding, toppling houses and destroying roads.

The 5 p.m. ET advisory said Michael was located 270 miles south-southwest of Apalachicola, Fla., moving northward at 12 mph.

"Today is the day".

Tolls were suspended in order to help people evacuate.

The entire Florida Panhandle is under a hurricane warning and a storm surge warning.

More than 20 counties have been ordered to evacuate as the Category 2 storm continues to gain strength and has already disrupted oil production in the Gulf of Mexico.

Michael is forecast to hit the Florida coast Wednesday before moving over Alabama, Georgia and the Carolinas Wednesday night and Thursday.

Tolls were being suspended in the state's northwest region to ease the evacuation process, and the Florida Highway Patrol is sending almost 350 state troopers to the Panhandle and Big Bend areas, Scott said.

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"We're looking at a significant storm with significant impact, possibly greater than I've seen in my 59 years of life, " Johnson said of his city on the shore of Apalachicola Bay, which where about 90 percent of Florida's oysters are harvested. Damaging winds will also extend inland across portions of the Florida Panhandle, southern Georgia, and southeast Alabama as Michael moves inland.

On its current track, Michael will move across the eastern Gulf of Mexico throughout Tuesday and then move inland over the Panhandle or Big Bend area of Florida on Wednesday, according to the hurricane center.

Tuesday afternoon, President Donald Trump approved an emergency declaration for Florida. As an example of that, we can look back to Florence, which saw a rapid drop in overall wind speed before it made landfall in North Carolina, but resulted in severe/fatal flooding anyways.

About 2,500 National Guard troops were deployed to assist with evacuations and storm preparations, and more than 4,000 others were on standby. He said people will "not be dragged out of their homes, " but anyone who stays behind will be on their own once the storm hits.

"We expect less rain to fall when compared to Florence", said AccuWeather senior meteorologist Dan Kottlowski.

Mandatory evacuation orders went into effect in Panama City Beach and other low-lying areas in the storm's path.

As of 10 a.m., the hurricane watch for the coast of Alabama was discontinued.

In the Florida Panhandle and surrounding areas, people are frantically boarding up homes, filling sandbags and planning for evacuation routes away from the storm's projected strike zone.

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