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Michael intensifies to Category 4 hurricane as it barrels toward Florida Panhandle

AccuWeather Global Weather Center  Michael will make landfall over the Florida Panhandle during early Wednesday afternoon, perhaps as the strongest hurricane on record to hit the region.

“Catastrophic Hurricane Michael continues to intensify as it approaches the Florida Panhandle. It is the strongest storm to hit the U.S., in terms of wind, since Hurricane Charley in 2004. It’s crucial to note that a 150-mph storm has four times the force of a 110-mph storm. Damage will be catastrophic within a 50-mile stretch of the coastline where the eye makes landfall, centered around Apalachicola Bay. It will look like a bomb or tsunami hit the area. We now believe that the coastline will cause the water to converge as high as 18-20 feet in isolated areas. This is moving water, which is extremely powerful. We’ve all seen pictures of what a tsunami can do. If people are still there and can still hear us, they need to do everything they can to survive,” AccuWeather Founder and President Dr. Joel N. Myers said.

Michael is currently a major Category 4 hurricane and may maintain this strength up to landfall. Some fluctuation in strength may occur as the storm reaches the shore at the last minute.

The impact and damage from a Category 4 hurricane is exponentially higher than from a Category 3 hurricane in terms of wind and storm surge flooding from the sea.

“Michael is a historic storm. A Category 4 hurricane has never struck that part of Florida. The coastline will be changed for decades,” AccuWeather Vice President of Forecasting and Graphics Operations Marshall Moss said.

“Impacts from Hurricane Michael along the Florida Panhandle will include a dangerous Gulf of Mexicostorm surge, flooding rainfall and damaging winds,” according to AccuWeather Hurricane Expert Dan Kottlowski.

Near and just east of where the eye of Michael makes landfall, between Panama City and Apalachicola, Florida, there is the potential for major devastation and extreme risks to lives.

Download the free AccuWeather app for the latest track forecast and information on Michael’s predicted impacts.

Time is running out for those on the coast to evacuate as waters will rise quickly into Wednesday afternoon.

“AccuWeather predicts that Hurricane Michael’s total damage and economic impact in the U.S. will be close to $30 billion,” Myers said. “The greatest impacts will be near and east of where the hurricane’s eye makes landfall, and particularly along the coastline because of angry seas in a dangerous ocean storm surge being driven inland by onshore winds.”

“In comparison, AccuWeather’s final damage and economic impact prediction of $60 billion for Florence was largely due to the storm’s inland flooding and damage. Due to Michael’s fast movement, inland flooding is not expected to be nearly as severe as it was with Florence. However, the greatest risk of flooding will occur in northern Florida and southern Georgia, where AccuWeather is predicting a Local StormMax™ of 12 inches,” Myers said.

“Michael will also bring the risk of flash flooding across the Carolinas, especially across eastern areas hit hard by Florence. As Michael is expected to track within 100 miles of the Carolina coastline, gales of 50-60 mph will result in additional damage. Our forecast for Michael’s ultimate economic impact factors in damage to expensive coastal resorts, costs of evacuations, lost wages, disruptions and damages to businesses, power outages, mold concerns and other health hazards in the six-month tail period following the storm as well as delays in Florence cleanup,” Myers added.

What will coastal impacts from Michael be like?

A significant amount of water will be funneled into Apalachee Bay and the stretch of coast between Mexico Beach and Keaton Beach, Florida. Interests in this area should be prepared for Gulf of Mexicostorm surge flooding averaging between 10 and 15 feet.

However, locally higher storm surge, between 18 and 20 feet, can occur due to local bay and coastline funneling effects.

Large waves will propagate outward as Michael moves northward. Seas and surf will build, especially over the eastern Gulf of Mexico. Some overwash is likely along the west coast of the Florida Peninsula, even though the storm center is forecast to make landfall over the Panhandle.

Moderate impacts from coastal flooding can occur south of Tampa with some impact possible as far south as the Florida Keys.

Most petroleum rigs are west of the forecast path of heaviest seas and winds.
However, precautionary evacuations would cause production to diminish and cease in some cases.

Seas of 15-30 feet with locally larger waves are forecast near and just northeast of the storm track. Swells of 10-20 feet may extend outward over much of the Gulf.
Damaging hurricane-force winds, widespread power outages, flooding rainfall and storm surge flooding will occur near and east of the eye of the storm along part of the upper Gulf coast of Florida.

As with any hurricane that makes landfall, there will be the risk of tornadoes being spawned.

The heaviest rain will fall from the Florida Panhandle to southwestern and central Georgia to the central Carolinas.

Adverse travel conditions may extend as far west as Interstate 85 as Michael rolls northeastward. Travel along U.S. Route 98 and I-10 in the Florida Panhandle may be dangerous and should be avoided from later Wednesday to early Thursday.

What will impacts from Michael be as the storm tracks inland?

After landfall, steering winds will guide Michael on a curved and accelerated northeastward path into Georgia, the Carolinas and then Virginia into the end of this week.

Increasing forward speed will tend to limit the duration and amount of rain.

Fast forward speed and the current strength of Michael now will mean substantial impact from wind well inland.

Even though Michael will weaken soon after making landfall in Florida, it may continue to have enough strength to cause damaging winds and isolated tornadoes along much of its path, especially near and east of the center.

People from parts of Georgia to the Carolinas and southeastern Virginia should be prepared for power outages due to fallen trees and downed lines. Trees may topple over easily due to the saturated state of the ground.

“We expect less rain to fall with Michael, when compared to Florence,” Kottlowski said.

Enough rain will still fall to cause urban, small stream and some river flooding in the region. A general 4-8 inches of rain is expected with local amounts to 12 inches.

Some areas that experienced flooding from Florence are likely to face renewed flooding but perhaps on a lesser scale due to Michael’s forecast increasing speed. However, some rivers may rise more swiftly than before due to the wet ground.

Another dose of heavy rain may once again saturate fields in the region, which may be another blow to agriculture.

After Michael spends several hours over land, the shield of heavy and steady rain may set up north of the center. This could put a secondary swath of flooding over part of the southern Appalachians and Piedmont areas.

An easterly wind will push some water toward the coasts of northeastern Florida, Georgia, the Carolinas and southeastern Virginia. Interests in this area should be prepared for coastal flooding and overwash on low-lying roads and causeways through Thursday night.

As Michael accelerates, before heading out to sea, some tropical moisture will be drawn into a non-tropical storm and bring a period of heavy rain and localized flooding to the northeastern U.S prior to the end of the week.

“AccuWeather has provided forecasts and impactful warnings of severe weather with documented Superior Accuracy™ for 56 years. We have developed a unique expertise for damage and economic impact predictions by analyzing the total effects of the storm from before it hits to the immediate and post impact effects, including the six-month tail period afterward. That’s why AccuWeather has been by far the most accurate source of damage and economic losses of any source, regularly beating out financial and insurance companies and other weather sources. AccuWeather accurately predicted damage in advance of storms during the 2017 hurricane season and ahead of Florence,” Myers said.

Elsewhere in the Atlantic, Tropical Storm Nadine formed in the eastern Atlantic on Tuesday, but will likely diminish by this weekend.

About AccuWeather, Inc. and AccuWeather.com

More than 1.5 billion people worldwide rely on AccuWeather to help them plan their lives, protect their businesses, and get more from their day. AccuWeather provides hourly and Minute by Minute™ forecasts with Superior Accuracy™ with customized content and engaging video presentations available on smartphones, tablets, free wired and mobile Internet sites, connected TVs, and Internet appliances, as well as via radio, television, and newspapers. Established in 1962 by Founder, President and Chairman Dr. Joel N. Myers — considered the “father of modern commercial meteorology,” the nation’s most respected source on the business of meteorology having been named “the most accurate man in weather” by The New York Times, and one of the top entrepreneurs in American history in Entrepreneur Magazine’s Encyclopedia of Entrepreneurs — AccuWeather also delivers a wide range of highly customized enterprise solutions to media, business, government, and institutions, as well as news, weather content, and video for more than 180,000 third-party websites.

Download the AccuWeather app today and follow AccuWeather on Facebook and Twitter for the most up-to-date forecasts and warnings, news and information surrounding breaking and spring weather. Visit www.AccuWeather.com for additional information.

 

AccuWeather, Superior Accuracy. (PRNewsFoto/AccuWeather, Inc.)

SOURCE AccuWeather

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