Hurricane Michael Barrelling Toward Florida Panhandle

October 09, 2018 - 10:59 am

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- At least 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 mph and a potential storm surge of 12 feet. Beach dwellers rushed to board up their homes and sandbag their properties against the fast-moving hurricane, which was expected to blow ashore around midday Wednesday along a relatively lightly populated stretch of coastline.

The speed of the storm — Michael was moving north at 12 mph — gave many people a dwindling number of hours to prepare or flee before being caught up in damaging wind and rain. "Guess what? That's today," National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham said. "If they tell you to leave, you have to leave."

By 11 a.m. ET, Michael had winds of 110 mph, just below a major Category 3 hurricane, and was getting stronger, drawing energy from Gulf waters in the mid-80s. The hurricane's effects will be felt far from its eye.

Forecasters said Michael's tropical storm-force winds stretched 370 miles across, with hurricane-strength winds extending up to 35 miles from the center. Aja Kemp, 36, planned to ride out the storm in her mobile home in Crawfordville.