October 9, 2018 – Hurricane Michael has strengthened to a category three storm, with winds near 120mph (193km/h) as it churns towards the Florida coast, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) says.
The storm is expected to make landfall on Wednesday. Florida Governor Rick Scott has warned residents to evacuate.
If you’re in an evacuation zone, I am urging you to leave RIGHT NOW. Do not risk your life or the lives of your loved ones- get out now.
— Rick Scott (@FLGovScott) October 10, 2018
Alabama, Florida and Georgia have declared states of emergency in all or parts of the states.
A destructive and life-threatening storm surge event will occur along portions of the Florida Panhandle, Big Bend, and Nature Coast on Wednesday and Wed night. The worst storm surge is expected to be between Mexico Beach and Keaton Beach where 9-13' of inundation is possible. pic.twitter.com/Koao5p4GIk
— NHC_Surge (@NHC_Surge) October 9, 2018
Hurricane #Michael continue to look more organized. This storm may be upgraded to a Cat. 4 soon. Landfall along the northern Gulf Coast is expected Wednesday. @KMBC #Flwx #Alwx pic.twitter.com/jxKpGJljAZ
— Neville Miller KMBC (@NevilleKMBC) October 10, 2018
Governor Scott called for coastal residents to evacuate, saying: “It could be the difference between life and death.”
Alabama is under a state-wide state of emergency ahead of the hurricane, along with 92 counties in southern Georgia and 35 counties in Florida.
Forecasters say some regions of the US may see 12in (30cm) of rain, and storm surges of up to 12ft (3.6m).
“Strengthening is expected overnight and on Wednesday, and Michael is forecast to be near category four strength when it makes landfall in the Florida Panhandle or the Florida Big Bend area,” the NHC said in its latest bulletin.
“Weakening is expected after landfall as Michael moves across the south-eastern United States,” it added.
The Florida governor called Michael “a monstrous storm” and urged residents to listen to officials.
I understand that evacuations are inconvenient, but this storm will bring torrential rain and heavy wind, along with dangerous storm surge throughout the panhandle. If you have been told to leave, you need to go. It could be the difference between life & death.
— Rick Scott (@FLGovScott) October 9, 2018
— Florida SERT (@FLSERT) October 10, 2018
It is expected to quickly travel up the US East Coast after making landfall on the Gulf Coast.
Heavy rains are forecast for the Carolinas, which were drenched by Hurricane Florence last month.
North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper told residents: “I know people are fatigued from Florence, but don’t let this storm catch you with your guard down.”
More than 300 miles of coastline are currently under threat, the National Weather Service has said.
The agency warned residents in Florida and Alabama of possible storm surges, high winds and flash flooding.
Forecasters in Alabama warned of possible tornados.
President Donald Trump told reporters on Tuesday: “We are very well prepared for the incoming hurricane.”
Governor Scott warned in a news conference that Hurricane Michael is a “massive storm that could bring total devastation to parts of our state, especially in the panhandle”.
— Mark Molnar (@WxNorthEastern) October 10, 2018
He added that it is predicted to be “the most destructive storm to hit the Florida panhandle in decades”.
Some 120,000 people have been warned to evacuate along Florida’s coast, where schools and state offices are to remain shut this week.
Gov Scott warned that he may order more evacuations due to the size of the potential storm surge.
“No one’s going to survive” such a wall of water, he said.
On Tuesday, Gov Scott said he activated 2,500 Florida National Guard troops in preparation for the storm.
The neighbouring states of Alabama and Georgia have also declared a state of emergency.
Where has Hurricane Michael hit so far?
The storm caused widespread destruction in Central America over the weekend, where at least 13 people have been reported dead.
— LaVozdelSandinismo (@lavozsandinista) October 7, 2018
According to the Associated Press, six people were killed in Honduras, four in Nicaragua and three in El Salvador.
Images on social media showed evacuating families wading through water to get to safety.
Parts of western Cuba, which was hit by the storm on Monday, were forecast to receive up to a foot of rain.
Offshore oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico have evacuated workers, halting nearly a fifth of daily production.
Five drilling rigs have been moved out of the storm’s path, according to the US Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement.