Hurricane Michael brings flooding to Panhandle

Posted: Updated:

 

A terrifyingly powerful category 4 Hurricane Michael is poised to become the strongest hurricane to hit the Florida Panhandle in recorded history. Its rapid strengthening has caught some by surprise and leaving anxious officials telling those who didn't evacuate: It's time to hunker down. 

Videos show flooding already in Apalachicola and on Shell Point Beach and the catastrophic storm hasn't made landfall yet. 

"This is the worst storm that our Florida Panhandle has seen in a century," Gov. Rick Scott said. "Hurricane Michael is upon us, and now is the time to seek refuge."

 

Among the concerns: Flash-flooding with heavy rain; life-threatening storm surges up to 14 feet high; and devastating winds, not just in the Panhandle, but southern Alabama and Georgia.

The storm's center had maximum sustained winds of 150 mph midday Wednesday, and the wind could be dangerously strong well after landfall, into the night.

 

Key developments

 

• As of noon ET, Michael's center had maximum sustained winds of 150 mph, and was about 35 miles southwest of Mexico Beach, Florida.

• About 4.2 million people were under hurricane warnings in Florida's Panhandle and Big Bend regions, along with parts of southeastern Alabama and southern Georgia. Tropical storm warnings cover 21 million people in several states.

• Bridges connecting oceanfront communities to inland areas, such as the Hathaway Bridge linking Panama City Beach to Panama City, were closed Wednesday morning because of deteriorating conditions.

• At 11 a.m. ET, the storm surge in coastal Apalachicola was bringing water levels more than 6 feet above the normal tide level. Up to 14 feet of storm surge is expected in Apalachicola, likely this afternoon, near the peak of the storm.

• Michael still could be a Category 2 storm (wind speeds of 96-110 mph) when it crosses into southern Georgia on Wednesday evening, forecasters said. "The citizens in Georgia need to wake up and pay attention. ... This is going to be the worst storm that southwest Georgia and central Georgia (has) seen in many, many decades," Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Brock Long said.

• "There will be hundreds of thousands, if not millions, without power for a very long time," Myers said.

Governor: 'It's too late to get on the road'

 

Gov. Scott on Monday and Tuesday urged people to get out of the way as Michael strengthened rapidly over the Gulf of Mexico after lashing Central America and western Cuba. Officials issued mandatory or voluntary evacuation orders in at least 22 counties on the Florida Gulf Coast.

On Wednesday morning, he said on Twitter that "the time for evacuating along the coast has come and gone."

"If you chose not to evacuate ... you're not going to be able to get out. This thing is coming now. ... It's too late to get on the road," he told CNN.