Supercharged hurricane threatens Florida with 150 mph winds

Gaining fury with every passing hour, Hurricane Michael closed in Wednesday on the Florida Panhandle with potentially catastrophic winds of 150 mph, the most powerful storm on record ever to menace the stretch of fishing towns, military bases and spring-break beaches.

Posted: Oct 10, 2018 12:05 PM

PANAMA CITY, Fla. (AP) — Gaining fury with every passing hour, Hurricane Michael closed in Wednesday on the Florida Panhandle with potentially catastrophic winds of 150 mph, the most powerful storm on record ever to menace the stretch of fishing towns, military bases and spring-break beaches.

With more than 375,000 people up and down the Gulf Coast warned to evacuate, the hurricane’s leading edge began lashing the white-sand shoreline with tropical storm-force winds, rain and rising seas before daybreak, hours before Michael’s center was expected to blow ashore.

“I really fear for what things are going to look like there tomorrow at this time,” Colorado State University hurricane expert Phil Klotzbach said in an email.

The supercharged brute quickly sprang from a weekend tropical depression, reaching a furious Category 4 early Wednesday as it drew energy from the Gulf of Mexico’s warm waters, an unseasonably high 84 degrees. Less than a day earlier, Michael was a Category 2.

Hurricane Michael edges towards the Florida panhandle on the morning of Oct. 10. (NOAA)

“The time to evacuate has come and gone ... SEEK REFUGE IMMEDIATELY,” Florida Gov. Rick Scott tweeted, while the sheriff in Panama City’s Bay County issued a shelter-in-place order before dawn.

In St. Marks, John Hargan and his family gathered up their pets and evacuated to a raised building constructed to withstand a Category 5 after water from the St. Marks River began surrounding their home. His 11-year-old son, Jayden, carried one of the family’s dogs in a laundry basket in one arm and held a skateboard in the other as he waded through calf-high water.

Hargan, a bartender at a riverfront restaurant, feared he would lose his home and his job to the storm.

“We basically just walked away from everything and said goodbye to it,” he said, tears welling up. “I’m freakin’ scared I’m going to lose everything I own, man.”

As of 11:30 a.m. EDT, Michael was centered about 50 miles (80 kilometers) south of Panama City, its winds at 150 mph (240 kmh). It was moving at 14 mph (22 kph). Hurricane-force winds extended up to 45 miles (75 kilometers) from its center.

Rainfall could reach up to a foot (30 centimeters), and the life-threatening storm surge could swell to 14 feet (4 meters).

The storm appeared to be so powerful that it is expected to remain a hurricane as it moves over Georgia early Thursday. Forecasters said it will unleash damaging wind and rain all the way into the Carolinas, still recovering from Hurricane Florence’s epic flooding.

“We are in new territory,” National Hurricane Center Meteorologist Dennis Feltgen wrote on Facebook. “The historical record, going back to 1851, finds no Category 4 hurricane ever hitting the Florida panhandle.”

Real-time Associated Press hurricane tracker tracks ongoing tropical storm and hurricane events.

With Election Day less than a month away, the crisis was seen as a test of leadership for Scott, a Republican running for the Senate, and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, the Democratic nominee for governor. Just as Northern politicians are judged on how they handle snowstorms, their Southern counterparts are watched closely for how they deal with hurricanes.

Several hours ahead of landfall, seawater was already lapping over the docks at Massalina Bayou near downtown Panama City, and knee-deep water was rising against buildings in St. Marks, which sits on an inlet south of Tallahassee.

Huge waves pounded the white sands of Panama City Beach, shooting frothy water all the way to the base of wooden stairs that lead to the beach.

More than 5,000 evacuees sought shelter in the capital city, which is about 25 miles from the coast but is covered by live oak and pine trees that can fall and cause power outages even in smaller storms.

Only a skeleton staff remained at Tyndall Air Force Base, situated on a peninsula just south of Panama City. The home of the 325th Fighter Wing and some 600 military families appeared squarely targeted for the worst of the storm’s fury, and leaders declared HURCON 1 status, ordering out all but essential personnel.

The base’s aircraft, which include F-22 Raptors, were flown hundreds of miles away as a precaution. The National Hurricane Center predicted 9 to 14 feet of inundation at Tyndall.

Evacuations spanned 22 counties from the Panhandle into north-central Florida. But civilians don’t have to follow orders, and authorities feared many failed to heed their warnings to get out.

“We’ve told those who stayed to have their life jackets on when the storm comes,” Tress Dameron, Franklin County emergency management coordinator, told The News Herald in Panama City.

Power crews are arriving in Florida ahead of Hurricane Michael. (Oct. 10)

Meteorologists watched in real time as a new government satellite showed the hurricane’s eye tightening, surrounded by lightning that lit it up like a Christmas tree.

“I guess it’s the worst-case scenario. I don’t think anyone would have experienced this in the Panhandle,” meteorologist Ryan Maue of weathermodels.com said. “This is going to have structure-damaging winds along the coast and hurricane-force winds inland.”

The University of Georgia’s Marshall Shepherd, a former president of the American Meteorological Society, called it a “life-altering event,” writing on Facebook that he watched the storm’s growth on satellite images with a pit in his stomach.

___

Associated Press writers Tamara Lush in St. Petersburg, Fla.; Freida Frisaro in Miami; Brendan Farrington in St. Marks, Fla.; Russ Bynum in Keaton Beach, Fla.; Jonathan Drew in Raleigh, North Carolina; and Seth Borenstein in Kensington, Md., contributed to this story.

For the latest on Hurricane Michael, visit https://www.apnews.com/tag/Hurricanes .

Terre Haute
Few Clouds
52° wxIcon
Hi: 66° Lo: 45°
Feels Like: 52°
Robinson
Overcast
53° wxIcon
Hi: 67° Lo: 42°
Feels Like: 53°
Indianapolis
Few Clouds
51° wxIcon
Hi: 64° Lo: 47°
Feels Like: 51°
Rockville
Clear
48° wxIcon
Hi: 65° Lo: 44°
Feels Like: 48°
Casey
Few Clouds
52° wxIcon
Hi: 64° Lo: 43°
Feels Like: 52°
Brazil
Scattered Clouds
56° wxIcon
Hi: 65° Lo: 43°
Feels Like: 56°
Marshall
Scattered Clouds
56° wxIcon
Hi: 67° Lo: 44°
Feels Like: 56°
Showers Today!
WTHI Planner
WTHI Temps
WTHI Radar

WTHI Events

 

Illinois Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 7 p.m. CT)

Confirmed Cases: 290373

Reported Deaths: 8845
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Cook1436345210
DuPage17471561
Lake16892487
Will13984378
Kane13092326
St. Clair6607190
Winnebago5959149
Madison5698136
Champaign470320
McHenry4581118
Peoria349450
McLean327923
Rock Island299576
Kankakee274177
Unassigned2537244
Sangamon241145
Kendall200925
Tazewell177425
LaSalle171257
DeKalb157938
Macon154444
Coles146430
Williamson140145
Jackson126124
Clinton116920
Boone112523
Adams112310
Randolph93911
Effingham8702
Vermilion7704
Whiteside74320
Ogle7106
Monroe67416
Knox6703
Grundy6695
Henry6665
Morgan66123
Bureau64111
Jefferson61138
Marion5540
Macoupin5447
Christian53911
Franklin5393
Stephenson5236
Union51524
McDonough48015
Logan4641
Crawford4503
Woodford4246
Fayette4183
Cass39811
Livingston3956
Jersey39215
Shelby3904
Montgomery37213
Lee3711
Iroquois36519
Perry35015
Saline3404
Warren3322
Bond3285
Douglas3127
Wayne2805
Jo Daviess2632
Lawrence2562
Carroll2305
Greene22711
Cumberland2175
Hancock2173
Moultrie2143
Jasper2119
Washington2111
Richland2095
Pulaski1801
Fulton1760
Clark1732
White1680
Johnson1560
Clay1540
Wabash1543
Mason1471
Piatt1400
Mercer1395
Pike1281
Menard1251
De Witt1221
Edgar1138
Massac1122
Ford1065
Marshall1040
Alexander811
Scott780
Gallatin732
Hamilton682
Henderson660
Edwards630
Brown610
Calhoun600
Putnam570
Stark552
Schuyler500
Hardin400
Pope291
Out of IL20

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 8 p.m. ET)

Confirmed Cases: 117450

Reported Deaths: 3580
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion21403766
Lake10618323
Elkhart6667111
St. Joseph6576110
Allen6292203
Hamilton4909109
Vanderburgh371931
Hendricks2747123
Monroe262736
Tippecanoe252313
Johnson2338124
Clark223657
Porter217647
Delaware198562
Cass19549
Vigo184327
Madison168975
LaPorte147441
Floyd138963
Warrick134440
Howard131863
Kosciusko124817
Bartholomew117957
Marshall101224
Dubois99119
Boone98646
Grant93334
Hancock93243
Noble92532
Henry80926
Jackson7689
Wayne76814
Morgan72938
Daviess67728
Shelby67729
Dearborn66528
LaGrange63911
Clinton60914
Harrison58724
Putnam58112
Gibson5305
Knox5259
Lawrence51529
Montgomery51121
DeKalb48711
White48614
Decatur45839
Miami4383
Greene42735
Fayette42313
Jasper3992
Steuben3877
Scott38111
Posey3400
Sullivan33812
Jennings31612
Franklin31125
Ripley3038
Clay3025
Orange28824
Whitley2796
Carroll27713
Adams2743
Wabash2718
Washington2691
Starke2677
Wells2654
Spencer2593
Jefferson2483
Huntington2453
Fulton2412
Tipton22822
Perry22113
Randolph2207
Jay1880
Newton17311
Owen1711
Martin1680
Pike1621
Rush1574
Vermillion1300
Fountain1282
Blackford1203
Pulaski1131
Crawford1080
Brown1043
Parke1032
Benton870
Ohio797
Union790
Switzerland690
Warren401
Unassigned0226