Hurricane Michael has weakened into a tropical storm since making landfall in the Florida panhandle, near Mexico Beach, on Wednesday afternoon (local time), October 10, as a Category 4 storm. Michael was reportedly the third-strongest storm to ever hit the mainland US and hundreds of thousands of Florida residents had been ordered to evacuate ahead of landfall. Flooding has been reported throughout northwestern Florida, along with at least two deaths due to falling trees (one in Gadsden county [Florida] and one in Seminole county [Georgia]). The death toll could rise in the coming hours as search and rescue operations continue. Mass power outages are ongoing in Florida, Alabama, and Georgia and states of emergency have been declared in Florida, Alabama, Georgia, and North Carolina. Significant transportation disruptions are also to be anticipated in the coming hours.
According to the National Hurricane Center, Michael is currently - as of 05:00 on Thursday - located approximately 45 km (30 mi) west of Augusta (Georgia). Maximum sustained winds of 85 km/h (50 mph) and gusts of up to 97 km/h (60 mph) continue to be reported. Michael is forecast to move in a northeasterly direction, passing over the states of South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, and the southern tip of Maryland before moving out to sea early on Friday.
Heavy rainfall is expected in the above states, which could lead to life-threatening flooding in the coming hours and days; 10-18 cm (4-7 in) of rain is forecast for most areas, and up to 23 cm (9 in) in isolated areas. Flood alerts of varying degrees issued by the National Weather Service (NWS) are in effect throughout the east of the country, as far north as Massachusetts and southern Vermont. Tornadoes are also possible Thursday over portions of eastern South Carolina, eastern and central North Carolina, and southeastern Virginia. Tropical storm warnings remain in effect for the southeastern coast of the country between Altamaha Sound (Georgia) and Duck (North Carolina), as well as for the Pamlico and Albemarle sounds. Storm surges and associated flooding are expected in North Carolina, notably between Ocracoke Inlet and Duck.
All hurricane warnings issued for the Gulf coastline, where water levels are receding, have been lifted.
Tropical storms and hurricanes are common in the Atlantic, Caribbean, and Gulf of Mexico from June through November, though major hurricanes rarely approach the Florida panhandle from this angle.
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.
Copyright and Disclaimer