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Florida braces for lethal floods as hurricane nears

10 October 2018

The storm is strengthening and expected to hit the Florida Gulf Coast as a risky major hurricane Wednesday, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Less than 24 hours after Governor Rick Scott declared a state of emergency in 26 Florida counties, residents of the state's capital were already filling sand bags. The center warned heavy rain, risky winds and life-threatening storm surges were possible across Western Cuba on Monday as winds picked up speed on the Gulf Coast.

Described by Scott as both "monstrous" and "massive", Michael could make landfall as a Category 3 hurricane with sustained winds of at least 111 miles per hour, according to current projections. "Michael is forecast to be near or at major hurricane strength when it reaches the northeastern Gulf of Mexico Tuesday night and Wednesday", the hurricane center said.

According to the NHC, Michael will likely make landfall early Wednesday morning, and is "forecast to be a unsafe major hurricane". Parts of Florida's curvy Big Bend could see up to 12 feet (3.7 meters) of storm surge, while Michael also could dump up to a foot (30 centimeters) of rain over some Panhandle communities as it moves inland, forecasters said. Winds become westerly late Thursday night into Friday morning, remaining 40 to 50 knots with gusts to 60 knots, until the center of Michael moves off the coast near the North Carolina/Virginia border Friday morning.

The life-threatening storm is then expected to rapidly intensify, threatening anywhere to the right of Panama City with the potential of up to 12 feet of storm surge. Hurricane Michael in the Caribbean could have also contributed.

"Take this seriously and keep your family safe", Scott said.

Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum canceled campaign events in South Florida on Monday and Tuesday to prepare for the storm, his campaign said. A separate map shows Columbus could see rain totals between 2 and 4 inches from the storm. "You can not hide from storm surge, so get out if an evacuation is ordered".

Many are located in the coastal town of Port St. Joe, the county's largest municipality, lying directly in the hurricane's projected path, she said. The National Hurricane Center has enacted hurricane, tropical storm, and storm surge warnings for more than 300 miles of the Florida coast.

7 P.M. Michael continued a slow process of strengthening Monday and at the 7 p.m. intermediate advisory had winds of 85 miles per hour.

As Hurricane Michael aims for the Florida Panhandle, people are boarding up and moving out.

Previous year saw a string of catastrophic storms batter the western Atlantic - including Irma, Maria and Hurricane Harvey - causing a record-equaling $125 billion in damage when it flooded the Houston metropolitan area.

The category-1 hurricane left dozens dead in the Carolinas and is estimated to have caused billions of dollars in damage.

"This rainfall could lead to life-threatening flash floods and mudslides", the NHC warned. "The potentially worst impact will be the storm surge". Tropical storm warnings are posted for the Isle of Youth in Cuba and the coast of Mexico from Tulum to Cabo Catoche, including Cozumel.

Florida braces for lethal floods as hurricane nears