Florida evacuations underway as ‘monstrous’ Hurricane Michael looms in Gulf of Mexico

The Gulf Coast is making its final preparations ahead of major Hurricane Michael, which will impact the region at midweek.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Michael is a major Category 3 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 120 mph. The storm is centered roughly 270 miles south of Apalachicola, Florida and is moving north at about 12 mph.

Michael could strengthen further before making landfall near Panama City, Florida, on Wednesday afternoon.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott ordered activation of the State Emergency Operations Center in Tallahassee to enhance coordination between federal, state and local agencies.

Mandatory evacuations are in effect along much of Florida’s northern Gulf Coast.

A state of emergency has also been ordered in Alabama and Georgia as people across the region brace for life-threatening impacts.

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The storm is expected to bring sustained winds of 80-100 mph with gusts of 120-130 mph to parts of the Florida Panhandle, mostly within 40 miles of where Michael makes landfall on Wednesday afternoon. The strongest gusts are likely just to the east of the center. This will lead to widespread tree and structural damage.

There may be prolonged power outages that could last for several days after Michael moves away. Wind damage will be on a more localized level as Michael moves across the Carolinas and Virginia. However, any weakened structures left behind from Florence will be at the highest risk for damage.

Continued cleanup efforts in the wake of Florence may be severely impacted. Unlike Florence, Michael is expected to move quickly through the Southeast, which will produce lower rainfall totals. Regardless, the risk for flooding may still become severe and life-threatening.

5:00 p.m. EDT Tuesday:

Michael has been upgraded to a major hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 120 mph. Michael could continue to strengthen before making landfall along the coast of the Florida Panhandle on Wednesday afternoon.

4:10 p.m. EDT Tuesday:

Only hours remain for people across the Florida Panhandle to prepare and evacuate before Hurricane Michael begins to impact the area.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott is telling Florida residents to listen to all warnings from local and state officials as Michael approaches.

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