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. With 40 percent of affected residents overall saying that they aren't getting the help they need and even higher percentages of black and low-income residents saying the same, it's clear that while those with more resources are on their way to recovery, those with fewer resources are not.
Weather models Monday showed that rain beginning Tuesday and continuing Wednesday.
The storm was forecast to move through the southeastern United States on Wednesday and Thursday, passing through Georgia and the Carolinas, which are still recovering from Hurricane Florence last month. The storm should also bring breezy conditions to Western North Carolina Thursday.
The National Weather Service said Michael could produce life-threatening hazards along portions of the northeastern Gulf Coast, including storm surge, heavy rainfall, and hurricane-force winds.
Florida Governor Rick Scott declared a state of emergency for 35 counties and said he was seeking a federal disaster declaration from President Donald Trump, who promised full support for Florida's efforts.
Scott extended a state of emergency to 35 counties and activated 2,500 National Guardsmen for hurricane duty. Following Hurricane Irma past year, 14 people died when a South Florida nursing home lost power and air conditioning.
He said: "My expectation is if you are a health care facility you have a responsibility to take care of those patients".
Both NOAA and Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter aircraft have flown through the hurricane's four quadrants - and the NHC says, "The planes actually passed through the eye around the same time [Tuesday morning], and reported that they could see one another".
In the small Panhandle city of Apalachicola, Mayor Van Johnson Sr. said the 2,300 residents were frantically preparing for what could be a blow unlike any seen there in decades.
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In a Facebook post Monday, the Wakulla County Sheriff's Office said no shelters would be open because Wakulla County shelters were rated safe only for hurricanes with top sustained winds below 111 miles per hour. With Michael's winds projected to be even stronger than that, Wakulla County residents were urged to evacuate inland.
"Think about what we've seen before with storms like Hurricane Irma", he said. Since the ground remains saturated in places, that could mean flash flooding, and trees in wet ground can topple more easily in high winds.
Besides the unsafe storm surge, residents should also prepare for torrential rain and major flooding, Scott said, with 4 to 8 inches of rain expected and even 12 inches possible in some areas.
Hurricane Michael became a Category 3 storm with 120 miles per hour maximum sustained winds on October 9. The storm was centered about 30 miles off the western tip of Cuba, and about 520 miles south of Apalachicola.
The storm has become risky, with forecasters predicting life-threatening storm surge that will likely be exacerbated by the astronomical king tides.
Only three major hurricanes have made landfall in the Panhandle since 1950: Eloise in 1975, Opal in 1995 and Dennis in 2005.
Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, Florida's Democratic nominee for governor, helped people fill sandbags. 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.
A year ago saw a string of catastrophic storms batter the western Atlantic - including Irma, Maria and Harvey, which caused a record-equaling $125 billion in damage when it flooded the Houston metropolitan area.