Florida Governor Rick Scott announced yesterday that he had declared a state of emergency in 26 counties in the state’s Panhandle and Big Bend regions as forecasters predicted Tropical Storm Michael would make landfall as a Category 2 hurricane later this week.
Scott also announced that he was activating 500 members of the Florida National Guard to assist with planning, logistics and storm response.
“This storm will be life-threatening and extremely dangerous,” said Scott, who also warned of hurricane-driven storm surge that could affect most of the state: “If this storm hits Panama City, Tampa could still have storm surge.”
At 7 a.m. this morning, the center of Tropical Storm Michael was located near latitude 20.9 North, longitude 85.1 West. Michael is moving toward the north near 7 mph. A northward motion at a slightly faster forward speed is expected through Tuesday night, followed by a northeastward motion on Wednesday and Thursday. On the forecast track, the center of Michael will move northward across the Yucatan Channel today, and then across the eastern Gulf of Mexico this evening through Wednesday. Michael is expected to move inland over the Florida Panhandle or Florida Big Bend area on Wednesday, and then move northeastward across the southeastern United States Wednesday night and Thursday.
Maximum sustained winds are near 70 mph with higher gusts. Additional strengthening is forecast, and Michael is expected to become a hurricane later today. Michael is forecast to
be near or at major hurricane strength when it reaches the northeastern Gulf of Mexico tomorrow night and Wednesday.
The north Florida city of Tallahassee yesterday opened two locations where residents could get sandbags in case of flooding.
“While the impacts are still uncertain, our area could experience increased wind activity and heavy rainfall, which could cause localized flooding and downed trees,” Tallahassee officials said in a statement.
Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, who is the Democratic nominee for governor, had planned to campaign in South Florida today and tomorrow, but he said he would return to Tallahassee to help with storm preparations.
The city of Pensacola tweeted to residents, “Be sure you have your emergency plan in place.”
A tropical storm warning was in effect for the Cuban provinces of Pinar del Rio and the Isle of Youth as well as the coast of Mexico from Tulum to Cabo Catoche. A warning indicates tropical storm conditions are expected, in this case, within 24 hours.
Michael is the 13th named storm of the 2018 hurricane season.