Hurricane Michael has been growing in strength after eclipsing tropical storm status on Monday over Cuba, and the system now has huge swaths of the Gulf Coast in emergency mode. Currently, the storm is a Category 4 with sustained winds of over 130 mph and is expected to further intensify before making landfall between Panama City and Apalachicola early Wednesday afternoon. Per the Weather Underground, this would be the first Category 4 storm to strike the Florida Panhandle “in 167 years of recordkeeping.” So it’s the strongest storm on record there, and it intensified overnight right before striking land, an equation that shall bring nothing but misery.
To give us an idea of how seriously this storm is being taken, USA Today reports that a Waffle House in Panama City Beach has closed for the first time with WXIA reporter Ryan Kruger remarking, “I don’t know if I’ve seen that in my entire life.” Certainly, this is a monster of a storm. This morning, the NOAA Satellites tweeted out this clip of the sun rising over the storm’s eye.
Panama City Beach won’t have an easy time, as this video shows.
Upon landfall, conditions are expected to deteriorate rapidly (high tide will occur a few hours later). The National Weather Service of Tallahassee tweeted this photo of Michael’s storm surge already pushing past a Panacea boat ramp.
The Washington Post reports that in addition to the hurricane’s landfall, Michael promises to unleash 5 days of tropical storm-grade winds on affected areas, along with a 14-foot storm surge:
Both the Florida Panhandle, from Pensacola to Apalachicola, and the Big Bend area are forecast to be hardest hit. Water levels are already rising rapidly and the storm is poised to push ashore a “life-threatening” surge of ocean water that could inundate more than 325 miles of coastline.
The storm also will bring destructive winds and flooding rain throughout Wednesday and conditions were rapidly deteriorating Wednesday morning as the storm’s outer bands began lashing the Panhandle. Population centers that could witness some of the most severe hurricane effects include Fort Walton Beach, Destin, Panama City Beach and Apalachicola.
The system is expected to bring rampant power outages not only throughout the Florida Panhandle but also parts of Georgia and Alabama. From there, the Carolinas could also see an impact while still in recovery mode from Hurricane Florence.