Forecasters: Michael quickly closing in on Category 3 hurricane

Forecasters: Michael quickly closing in on Category 3 hurricane

Forecasters: Michael quickly closing in on Category 3 hurricane

Hurricane Michael is projected to make landfall along the western Florida coast on Wednesday and pass through parts of Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina.

Governor Rick Scott´s office said mandatory evacuation orders were in place for parts of Bay County, which includes the popular Panama City beach resort, and areas in nearby Gulf and Franklin counties.

At 2 p.m. Tuesday, the National Hurricane Center said Michael had top sustained winds of 110 miles per hour (175 kph).

The National Weather Service has warned the hurricane could have catastrophic impacts in the Big Bend and Panhandle as it moves ashore with powerful winds and a life-threatening storm surge, then turns northeastward to the Carolinas.

The National Hurricane Center projects widespread rainfall amounts of four to eight inches, from the Florida Panhandle and Big Bend areas north into Georgia and SC, and isolated amounts of up to a foot.

According to NHC, the worst storm surge is expected between Mexico Beach and Keaton Beach in Florida where nine to 13 feet of inundation is possible.

Meanwhile, tropical storm warnings extend from Florida's Chassahowitzka River to the Mississippi-Alabama border.

The storm's effects will be felt far from the eye of the hurricane.

"Hurricane Michael is forecast to be a Category 3 storm when it makes landfall and the impact could be devastating".

The Carolinas are still recovering from Hurricane Florence, which left dozens dead and is estimated to have caused billions of dollars in damage last month.

The National Hurricane Center said the storm was moving north-northwestward through the southern Gulf of Mexico, and that storm surge and hurricane warnings were in effect for the northeastern Gulf coast. It is expected to become a hurricane by Tuesday. Storm surge is not much of a concern because forecasters expect the hurricane to move quickly across the state, Martin said. He said 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. If Michael's forecast proves right, there's a 95 percent chance the area's dunes will be flooded by storm waters.

Michael was now packing winds of 120 miles per hour (195 kilometers per hour) as it aimed for the Florida panhandle, the finger-shaped strip of land on the Gulf of Mexico.

Many schools, businesses and government buildings will be closed and energy companies have halted almost a fifth of the oil production on the Gulf of Mexico, a part of the United States which is responsible for 17% of daily U.S. crude oil output.

In Alabama, Gov. Kay Ivey issued a statewide state of emergency, saying on Twitter that it was "in anticipation of wide-spread power outages, wind damage and debris produced by high winds & heavy rain associated with #HurricaneMichael".

"Guess what? That's today", Graham said.

He noted that residents in the nearby coastal county of Wakulla were being forced to keep their shelters shut because they aren't built to withstand severe winds that may come with Hurricane Michael.

Even though the hurricane is passing to the west, Flagler County residents face an 18 to 40% risk of tropical storm-force winds on Wednesday and Wednesday night, Flagler County officials said Monday evening.

In Georgia, Gov. Nathan Deal declared a preemptive state of emergency for 92 counties.

Tallahassee´s Democratic Mayor Andrew Gillum, who is campaigning to succeed Scott as governor in next month´s elections, suspended his campaign and returned to the state capital to oversee storm preparations.

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