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Hurricane Michael heads toward Florida Panhandle

October 08. 2018 11:11PM

(Reuters) — Florida’s governor mobilized National Guard troops and ordered Gulf Coast residents to head inland or evacuate as Hurricane Michael churned toward shore on Monday, with the storm forecast to strengthen rapidly before making landfall on Wednesday.

Michael was expected to strengthen to a major Category 3 storm by Tuesday with winds over 100 miles per hour, making it one of the most powerful storms to hit the Panhandle of Florida in decades, state officials said.

The storm was expected to bring up to 12 inches of rain with storm surges up to 12 feet, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center. Michael was currently a Category 1 hurricane, at the bottom of the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency in 26 counties along the Florida Panhandle and Big Bend. Locally ordered evacuations of thousands of homes have begun, with 1,250 National Guard soldiers aiding the process and over 4,000 troops on standby, Scott tweeted.

“The FL panhandle needs to be prepared for a direct hit with sustained hurricane force winds,” Scott wrote on Twitter on Monday. “Hurricane Michael is forecast to be a Category 3 storm when it makes landfall and the impact could be devastating. Get prepared NOW.”

The NHC said that a “life-threatening” storm surge and flash flooding is likely in areas of the Panhandle and called the storm “dangerous.”

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