Potentially catastrophic Hurricane "Michael" is heading toward the Florida Panhandle. Life-threatening storm surge, hurricane-force winds, and heavy rainfall are imminent, NHC said 12:00 UTC (07:00 UTC). It's very likely that this storm will make landfall as a Category 4 hurricane, which will make it the most powerful storm to ever hit Florida Panhandle. States of emergency have been declared in parts of Florida, Georgia and Alabama. Mandatory evacuations are in effect along much of Florida's northern Gulf Coast.
At 12:00 UTC, the center of Hurricane "Michael was 145 km/h (90 miles) SW of Panama city and 145 km WSW of Apalachicola, Florida. Reports from an Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter aircraft indicate that maximum sustained winds have increased to near 230 km/h (145 mph) with higher gusts. The hurricane is moving north at 20 km/h (13 mph).
"Michael is an extremely dangerous Category 4 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale," NWS said, adding the additional strengthening is possible before landfall.
On the forecast track, the eye of Michael is expected to move ashore over the Florida Panhandle later today (CDT), move northeastward across the southeastern United States tonight and Thursday, October 11 (local time) and then move off the Mid-Atlantic coast away from the United States on Friday, October 12.
Michael is expected to make landfall near Panama City, Florida, between 18:00 and 20:00 UTC (13:00 and 15:00 CDT), Wednesday, October 10, 2018.
"Should Michael's eye cross the coast as a Category 4 hurricane, it would be the first time on record for such an occurrence over the Big Bend area of Florida's coast," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski said.
"It would join the ranks of a select few Category 4 hurricanes to make landfall in the United States during October. Hurricane Hazel in 1954 was the last hurricane to do so. However, Hazel made landfall along the Carolina coast and not in Florida," according to Sosnowski.
Several thousand power outages and tropical-storm-force wind gusts have already been reported in parts of northwestern Florida. There may be prolonged power outages that could last for several days. Wind damage will be on a more localized level as Michael moves across the Carolinas and Virginia. However, any weakened structures left behind from Florence will be at the highest risk for damage.
Hurricane "Michael" at 13:00 UTC on October 10, 2018. Credit: NOAA/GOES-East
A Storm Surge Warning is in effect for:
* Okaloosa/Walton County Line Florida to Anclote River, Florida
A Storm Surge Warning means there is a danger of life-threatening inundation, from rising water moving inland from the coastline. For a depiction of areas at risk, please see the National Weather Service Storm Surge Watch/Warning Graphic, available at hurricanes.gov.
A Storm Surge Watch is in effect for:
* Anclote River Florida to Anna Maria Island Florida, including Tampa Bay
A Storm Surge Watch means there is a possibility of life-threatening inundation, from rising water moving inland from the coastline.
A Hurricane Warning is in effect for:
* Alabama/Florida border to Suwannee River, Florida
A Hurricane Warning means that hurricane conditions are expected somewhere within the warning area.
A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for:
* Alabama/Florida border to the Mississippi/Alabama border
* Suwanee River Florida to Chassahowitzka, Florida
* North of Fernandina Beach Florida to Surf City North Carolina
A Tropical Storm Warning means that tropical storm conditions are expected somewhere within the warning area.
A Tropical Storm Watch is in effect for:
* Chassahowitzka to Anna Maria Island Florida, including Tampa Bay
* Mississippi/Alabama border to the Mouth of the Pearl River
* Surf City North Carolina to Duck, North Carolina
* Pamlico and Albemarle Sounds
A Tropical Storm Watch means that tropical storm conditions are possible within the watch area.
Interests elsewhere across the southeastern United States should monitor the progress of Michael.
Hazards affecting land
The combination of a dangerous storm surge and the tide will cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded by rising waters moving inland from the shoreline. The water has the potential to reach the following heights above ground if peak surge occurs at the time of high tide:
Tyndall Air Force Base, FL to Aucilla River, FL: 2.7 - 4.2 m (9 - 14 feet)
Okaloosa/Walton County Line, FL to Tyndall Air Force Base, FL: 1.8 - 2.7 m (6 - 9 feet)
Aucilla River, FL to Cedar Key, FL: 1.8 - 2.7 m (6 - 9 feet)
Cedar Key, FL to Chassahowitzka, FL: 1.2 - 1.8 m (4 - 6 feet)
Chassahowitzka to Anna Maria Island, FL including Tampa Bay: 0.6 - 1.2 m (2-4 feet)
Tropical storm conditions are spreading onshore along the U.S. Gulf Coast within the warning area, with hurricane conditions spreading onshore later this morning within the hurricane warning area. Hurricane conditions will also spread well inland across portions of the Florida Panhandle, southeastern Alabama and southwestern Georgia later today and tonight.
Tropical storm conditions are expected to spread northward within the warning area along the southeast U.S. coast beginning tonight, and are possible in the watch area by late Thursday and Thursday night, October 11.
Michael is expected to produce the following rainfall amounts through Friday:
Florida Panhandle and Big Bend, southeast Alabama, and portions of southwest and central Georgia 102 - 204 mm (4 to 8 inches), with isolated maximum amounts of 305 mm (12 inches). This rainfall could lead to life-threatening flash floods.
The remainder of Georgia, the Carolinas, and southern Virginia 75 - 152 mm (3 to 6 inches), with isolated maximum amounts of 203 mm (8 inches). This rainfall could lead to life-threatening flash floods.
Florida Peninsula, eastern Mid Atlantic, southern New England coast 25 - 75 mm (1 to 3 inches).
Swells generated by Michael will affect the coasts of the eastern, northern, and western Gulf of Mexico during the next day or so. These swells are likely to cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions.
A few tornadoes will be possible across parts of the Florida Panhandle and the northern Florida Peninsula through this afternoon. This risk will spread into parts of central and southern Georgia and southern South Carolina this afternoon and tonight.
Eyewall of Michael is coming ashore along the coast of Florida Panhandle between St. Vincent Island and Panama City, NHC said 17:00 UTC. Life-threatening storm surge and catastrophic winds moving onshore.
Michael has maximum sustained winds of 240 km/h (150 mph) and is moving NNE at 22 km/h (14 mph) and minimum central pressure of 919 hPa.
This makes Michael the most powerful storm ever to make landfall in Florida Panhandle.
"With the landfall of Michael's eye imminent, everyone in the landfall area is reminded not to venture out into the relative calm of the eye, as hazardous winds will increase very quickly as the eye passes," NHC said.
A weather station at the Gulf County Emergency Operations Center in Port St. Joe recently reported a wind gust of 171 km/h (106 mph). A Weatherflow station is St. Andrew Bay recently reported a sustained wind of 100 km/h (62 mph) and a wind gust of 124 km/h (77 mph).
The Apalachicola airport recently reported sustained winds of 102 km/h (63 mph) with a gust of 143 km/h (89 mph). Water levels continue to rise quickly along the coast of the Florida Panhandle. A National Ocean Service water level station at Apalachicola recently reported over 0.20 m (6.5 feet) of inundation above ground level.
Featured image: Hurricane "Michael" at 13:00 UTC on October 10, 2018. Credit: NOAA/GOES-East