Michael strengthens to a Category 4 hurricane, menaces Florida Panhandle

ST PETERSBURG FLORIDA-OCTOBER 29 2004 A woman drops her ballot into the box after early voting in St Petersburg Fl. Most people said they waited about 1.5 hours in line to vote today

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It "poses a deadly threat and as it grows stronger, we can expect it make landfall as a major Category 3 storm", said Scott, warning that it "could bring total devastation to parts of our state, especially in the panhandle".

Hurricane Michael was packing winds of up to 130 miles per hour (210 km per hour), hours before it was set to make landfall on Florida's Panhandle or Florida's Big Bend where it potentially could unleash devastating waves as high as 13 feet (4 meters), the National Hurricane Center (NHC) warned.

Michael is a category 2 hurricane with maximum sustained winds near 175 km/h. "This storm will be life-threatening and extremely unsafe". "You can not hide from this storm".

Unlike Florence, the storm is expected to move through the state quickly, leaving conditions to improve on Friday. The governor has declared a state of emergency in 35 counties and is stressing that residents should "absolutely" evacuate if ordered to. The state has issued voluntary evacuation orders for parts of Calhoun, Gadsden, Hernando, Jefferson, Leon, Liberty, Pasco, Santa Rosa and Taylor counties. More than 100,000 people were ordered out of a long swath of low-lying communities, including many in Bay County, home of Panama City.

"We've practiced this many times". Following Hurricane Irma past year, 14 people died when a South Florida nursing home lost power and air conditioning. The fix bill came in at more than $60 billion, ranking Irma among the most costly storms in US history.

In its discussion, the Hurricane Center said the storm was becoming better organized and would be a major hurricane upon landfall. The storm could inundate more than one-fourth of that coast's dunes, causing flooding behind the protective dune line, said Kara Doran, leader of the USGS Coastal Change Hazards Storm Team. Damaging winds will also extend inland across portions of the Florida Panhandle, southern Georgia, and southeast Alabama as Michael moves inland. The National Hurricane center says the Florida Panhandle should prepare for life-threatening storm surge, destructive winds and heavy rainfall.

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Her declaration activates the state's emergency operations plan.

Hurricane Michael is coming. Michael, which had caught many by surprise with its rapid intensification as it churned north over the Gulf of Mexico, was the most powerful recorded storm ever to hit the Panhandle.

As Hurricane Michael gains strength and heads toward Florida, some are seeing an eerie sight popping up in satellite images from the center of the storm.a skull.

"I've had to take antacids I'm so sick to my stomach today because of this impending catastrophe", National Hurricane Center scientist Eric Blake tweeted as the storm - drawing energy from the unusually warm, 84-degree Gulf waters - became more menacing.

Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan bluntly advised residents choosing to ride it out that first-responders won't be able to reach them while Michael smashes into the coast.

A hurricane warning is now posted for the Florida Gulf coast from the Alabama/Florida border to Suwanee River, Florida, including Pensacola, Panama City and Tallahassee.

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