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Forecasters: Michael quickly closing in on Category 3 hurricane

10 October 2018

Mandatory evacuation orders went into effect Tuesday morning for some 120,000 people in Panama City Beach and across other low-lying parts of the coast.

In an 8 a.m. update Tuesday, National Hurricane Center forecasters said Michael had strengthened to a Cat 2 storm with sustained winds of 100 miles per hour after appearing to take a brief pause in strengthening overnight, likely due to dry air and upper level wind shear.

Earlier it said Michael could produce three life-threatening hazards along portions of the northeastern Gulf Coast: storm surge, heavy rainfall, and hurricane-force winds, with storm surge and hurricane watches in effect.

By 1800 GMT it was nearing the western tip of Cuba, off Mexico's Yucatan peninsula, and was forecast to push through the Gulf of Mexico before moving inland over the northern Gulf Coast of Florida, the Miami-based National Hurricane Centre (NHC) said.

Hurricane Michael is coming.

Energy companies halted almost a fifth of Gulf of Mexico oil production and moved staff from 10 platforms on Monday as Michael was forecast to become the strongest of three named storms to affect the US Gulf of Mexico this year.

By comparison, Florence caused upwards of 20-30 inches of rain across much of the Carolinas.

On the Panhandle, Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan warned residents during a news conference Monday evening that if they stay, first responders won't be able to reach them during the storm or immediately after. The National Hurricane Center has enacted hurricane, tropical storm, and storm surge warnings for more than 300 miles of the Florida coast.

"We have known for days that, regardless of size, we would see a significant storm impact in the Florida Panhandle and Big Bend". The whirlwind hurricane continues to pick up speed, and The National Weather Service in Tallahassee called Michael "potentially catastrophic".

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By Thursday, Michael will be weakening and moving through the southeastern United States. US producers in the Gulf cut oil production by about 40 percent and natural gas output by 28 percent on Tuesday, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement said, citing reports from 27 companies.

The last major hurricane to hit the Panhandle was Hurricane Dennis in 2005, according to hurricane center data.

The NHC warned that the waves and rain could trigger deadly flooding, and that residents within the hurricane warning zone should likewise "prepare for life-threatening winds".

President Trump, speaking to reporters at the White House, said the country is very well prepared for the hurricane, adding it was much bigger than had been expected. The county has opened two sandbag locations for residents. Plenty of water. I made sure we've got clean clothes.

"The state is not taking this storm lightly and neither should any family".

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, who is also the Democratic gubernatorial candidate in the November 6 elections, said on Sunday he was cancelling his campaign events and returning to Tallahassee to focus on storm preparations.

Neighbors in Alabama - the entire state is under an emergency declaration - also were bracing.

"I know people are tired from Florence, but don't let this storm catch you with your guard down", North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said, adding, "A number of homes have rooftop tarps that could be damaged or blown away with this wind".

Here are some other facts that show the power of this "monstrous storm". Trees and utility lines will start to come down, which will lead to power outages.

Forecasters: Michael quickly closing in on Category 3 hurricane