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10 October 2018, 08:08 | Ross Houston
Michael strengthens to Category 2 hurricane; expected to intensify
Michael gained new strength over warm tropical waters amid a forecast that it would swiftly intensify into a major hurricane before striking Florida's northeast Gulf Coast, where frantic coastal residents were boarding up homes and seeking evacuation routes away from the unsafe storm heading their way.
Here's what to know about Hurricane Michael, the storm's path, when it's supposed to make landfall and just how risky it's expected to be. Tropical-storm force winds extending 185 miles (295 kilometers) from the center were already lashing the coast.
Citizens of the Southeastern U.S. are being advised to evacuate and bunker down as Hurricane Michael is about to make landfall in Florida. The storm would be the most powerful hurricane to hit the mainland United States this year.
It is forecast to become a Category 3 hurricane before making landfall somewhere along the Florida Panhandle on Wednesday.
Florida Governor Rick Scottsaid Michael was expected to be "the most deadly, destructive storm to the Panhandle in decades". The intensity of the storm means that the storm surge will reach 10 feet or higher in places and that level of water will inundate many low-lying communities. "Do not risk your life, leave NOW if you were told to do so", it said. Some areas could expect to see up to 13 feet of water.
The agency warned residents in Florida and Alabama of possible storm surges, high winds and flash flooding.
The hurricane is expected to make landfall Wednesday, with population centers like Panama City and Tallahassee sitting in its path. Forecasters have warned about a potentially devastating storm surge, along with punishing winds and rains that could tear through the region on Wednesday and Thursday.
Some 120,000 people have been warned to evacuate along Florida's coast, where schools and state offices are to remain shut this week.
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Scott said some counties told him residents had resisted evacuating despite increasing warnings.
Other locations in the state are under voluntary evacuation.
Any time a tropical system, and it's remnants, move north up the East Coast we need to be concerned here in ME for wind and rain. Scott declared a state of emergency in 35 Florida counties, mostly encompassing rural areas known for small tourist cities, beaches, wildlife reserves and Tallahassee, the state capital.
Hurricane Michael is now a risky Category 4 storm.
President Donald Trump, who was in Orlando delivering an address to a global association of police chiefs, said the federal government was ready and urged residents to be prepared for the worst. The declaration frees up funding, resources and personnel to help Florida weather the storm.
At least 32 shelters are in operation, according to the statement, and the state is supporting sheltering operations along the Panhandle. More than 5,000 National Guard soldiers have been put on alert.
Associated Press contributors include Tamara Lush in St. Petersburg; Brendan Farrington in St. Mark's, Russ Bynum in Keaton Beach; Jonathan Drew in Raleigh, North Carolina; and Science Writer Seth Borenstein in Kensington, Maryland.
A hurricane warning was in place from the Alabama-Florida border to the Suwannee River in Florida.
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