Moving Hurricane Michael menaces Florida Panhandle

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Scott declared a state of emergency in 35 counties along the Panhandle and Florida's Big Bend regions, mostly rural areas known for small tourist cities, beaches and wildlife reserves, and the state capital, Tallahassee.

Beach dwellers rushed to board up their homes and sandbag their properties against the fast-moving hurricane, which was expected to blow ashore around midday Wednesday.

The Weather Service warned that coast flooding is expected with each high tide.

Everyone in hurricane and storm surge warning zones should prepare for life-threatening winds, the NHC said.

A hurricane watch is in effect for coastal Alabama and a tropical storm watch is in effect for coastal Mississippi.

The storm, now about 395 miles south of Panama City, was moving north-northwest at 12 mph.

By Wednesday night and Thursday, the storm will cut through the southeastern United States.

As of the 4pm CDT advisory Monday evening, Michael was a category 1 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 80 miles per hour. Michael is forecast to retain at least tropical storm strength as it crosses Georgia and the Carolinas, so Michael's overall wind swath could be broad.

Emergency officials in both counties and statewide are closely watching the hurricane.

"It's been dry for the last couple of weeks, so there's plenty of places for that to run off to", he said.

According to an alert published by the Cuban Civil Defense, meteorologists warned affected residents that they could experience hurricane-force winds. A shift eastward would not. "You need to evacuate if you're ordered to do so", Scott said.

"We've been through this before", Sally Crown said she closed the cafe where she works because the city was shutting off the sewer system in anticipation of the storm.

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In Volusia County, emergency management director Jim Judge said residents are looking at "breezy conditions, some rain and potentially a couple of good gusts through the squalls".

In addition to hurricane-force winds and heavy rain, storm surge flooding is a big concern along the Florida Gulf coast. A coastal flood advisory is in effect for Flagler County through Wednesday.

"Today it is about life and safety", Gillum said.

"I know people are worn out from Florence", Cooper said at a press briefing Tuesday morning.

Alexander Charnicharo fishes at the seafront in Havana as Hurricane Michael passes by western Cuba on October 8, 2018.

"Regardless of the eventual track and intensity of Michael, life-threatening storm surge inundation is expected along portions of the Florida Panhandle and Big Bend/Nature Coast, and the storm surge watch has been upgraded to a storm surge warning for parts of this area", the center said.

An estimated 120,000 people along the Florida Panhandle were ordered to clear out on Tuesday as Hurricane Michael rapidly picked up steam in the Gulf of Mexico and closed in with winds of 110 miles per hour and a potential storm surge of 12 feet.

It could strengthen to a Category 2 hurricane by the time it approaches the Gulf Coast of Florida by Wednesday. Volusia and Flagler counties were not included in that declaration.

Scott extended a state of emergency to 35 counties and activated 2,500 National Guardsmen for hurricane duty.

Michael is not expected to be a reprise of Florence, which pummeled the state for several days, producing record rainfall and river flooding, and has been blamed on 40 deaths in the state.

Nadine, which is no threat to land, is notable as the 14th named storm this hurricane season, which was forecast to have less activity than during a normal year.

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