Forecasters say major Hurricane Michael is better organized and expected to strengthen further and be near a highly dangerous Category 4 strength as it approaches a projected Wednesday landfall in north Florida.
Michael is currently a powerful Category 3 hurricane packing top winds of 120 mph. At 8 p.m. EDT Tuesday, the hurricane’s eye was located about 255 miles south of Panama City, Florida, or about 235 miles south-southwest of Apalachicola, Florida. The enormous storm system is moving north across the eastern Gulf of Mexico at 12 mph.
The National Hurricane Center in Miami says Michael will push life-threatening storm surge onto parts of the Gulf Coast during the day Wednesday, bringing with it dangerous winds and heavy rains.
Though the storm is expected to weaken once it heads inland over the U.S. Southeast, tropical storm watches and warnings are in place along a stretch of the Atlantic seaboard in a region from northeast Florida to North Carolina.
Authorities in Florida’s Citrus County say they’ve ordered a mandatory evacuation affecting more than 17,000 people along the Gulf Coast as Hurricane Michael approaches.
Also ordered to leave the county Tuesday: anyone staying in an RV, mobile home or manufactured home throughout the county.
Based on the responses of officials in even Florida counties, approximately 279,200 people have been affected by mandatory or voluntary evacuations as they seek to get away from Michael’s projected path.