Hurricane Michael has strengthened to a Category 3 storm as it bears down on Florida's Gulf Coast on the afternoon (local time) of Tuesday, October 9. As of 16:00, the hurricane was located at approximately 26.0°N, 86.4°W (some 470 km [295 mi] of Panama City [Florida]), packing maximum sustained winds of 195 km/h (120 mph), and moving northward at 19 km/h (12 mph). States of emergency have been declared in Florida, Alabama, and 92 counties in southern Georgia. Mandatory evacuation orders have been issued in 22 counties in Florida as of Tuesday afternoon. A comprehensive list of affected counties is available here.
According to the National Weather Service, as of Tuesday afternoon, a hurricane warning is in effect from the Alabama-Florida border to the Suwanee River (Florida); a tropical storm warning is in effect from the Alabama-Florida border to the Mississippi-Alabama border, from Suwanee River (Florida) to Chassahowitzka (Florida), and from Fernandina Beach (Florida) to South Santee River (South Carolina). Heavy rainfall of 10-20 cm (4-8 in) is forecast for the Florida Panhandle, Big Bend (Florida), southeastern Alabama, and parts of central and southwestern Georgia. Localized higher rainfall totals of up to 30 cm (12 in) are possible. Other areas of Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and southern Virginia are forecast to receive 8-15 cm (3-6 in) of rainfall, with localized higher totals of up to 20 cm (8 in) possible. Airports in the Florida Panhandle (i.e. Pensacola International Airport [PNS], Tallahassee International Airport [TLH]) are expected to be closed over the coming days.
Consequent flooding, transportation disruptions (including additional airport closures and flight delays and cancelations), and power disruptions are to be expected in affected areas.
Tropical storms and hurricanes are common in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea during the Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to November 30 (with the largest concentration of storms typically occurring between August and October). Researchers have predicted a slightly below-average hurricane season for 2018.
Individuals in the affected areas are advised to monitor local weather reports, adhere to instructions issued by local authorities (e.g. evacuation notices), and confirm travel plans. Remember that walking or driving through running water can be dangerous - 15 cm (6 in) of running water is enough to knock over an adult - and floodwaters can contain wastewater and chemical products; all items having come into contact with floodwater should be disinfected and all foodstuffs discarded.
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