Hurricane Michael, currently a catergory-1 storm, is tracking northward across the Caribbean, and is expected to make landfall in Florida on Wednesday. The storm is currently over Cuba, and is expected to strike the Florida Panhandle as a category-3 hurricane, with wind speeds up to 129 mph. Due to the high warmth of Gulf of Mexico waters, the storm could strengthen dramatically and suddenly as it moves off Cuba and out into the Gulf. This is what caused Hurricane Katrina to become such a severe storm as it moved onshore over New Orleans in 2005.
"Life-threatening storm surge is possible along portions of the Florida Gulf Coast regardless of the storm’s exact track or intensity," according to the National Hurricane Center. "Well-built framed homes may incur major damage or removal of roof decking and gable ends. Many trees will be snapped or uprooted, blocking numerous roads. Electricity and water will be unavailable for several days to weeks after the storm passes."
Unlike Cape Verde hurricanes that form off of the west coast of Africa, Michael formed in the south Caribbean Sea off of the east coast of the Yucatán Peninsula, in a manner similar to last season’s Hurricane Nate, a storm that made landfall in Louisiana. Florida Governor Rick Scott has declared a state of emergency for 26 counties, including the activation of 500 National Guard troops, in anticipation of the storm’s arrival.
"This storm will be life-threatening and extremely dangerous," Scott said at a press briefing–indeed, Michael has already caused nine deaths across Central America. "This storm has the potential to bring devastating impacts to communities across the Panhandle and Big Bend and every family must be prepared.
"Everybody’s got to get ready. Don’t take a chance," Scott continues. "We’re going to get storm surge, we have wind, we have a chance of flooding, we have a significant chance of tornadoes." A mandatory evacuation order is also in effect for coastal areas of Gulf County, according to a Port St. Joe Police Department news release.