The Latest: Michael lashes Florida coast as Cat 4 hurricane



TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The Latest on Hurricane Michael (all times local):

5 a.m.

Hurricane Michael is an extremely dangerous Category 4 storm and still growing stronger as it closes in on the northwest Florida coast.

Reports from an Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter aircraft indicate that maximum sustained winds have increased to near 140 mph (220 kph) with higher gusts.

At 5 a.m., the center of the hurricane was bearing down on a stretch of the Florida Panhandle, still about 140 miles (225 kilometers) from Panama City and 130 miles (209 kilometers) from Apalachicola, but moving relatively fast at 13 mph (21 kph). Tropical-storm force winds extending 185 miles (295 kilometers) from the center were already lashing the coast.

Forecasters are warning of life-threatening storm surge, catastrophic wind damage and heavy rainfall as the hurricane moves onshore.

2:10 a.m.

The National Hurricane Center says Michael has become an extremely dangerous Category 4 storm.

At 2:00 a.m. Wednesday, the eye of Michael was about 180 miles (289 kilometers) south-southwest of Panama City, Florida. It also was about 170 miles (273 kilometers) southwest of Apalachicola, Florida. Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 45 miles (72 kilometers) from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 175 miles (281 kilometers).

Michael was expected to become one of the Panhandle’s worst hurricanes in memory with a life-threatening storm surge of up to 13 feet (4 meters).

Florida officials said roughly 375,000 people up and down the Gulf Coast had been urged or ordered to evacuate. Evacuations spanned 22 counties from the Florida Panhandle into north central Florida.

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12:30 a.m.

Hurricane Michael is roaring down on the Florida Panhandle, gaining strength so quickly that forecasters expect it to become a Category 4 monster once it slams into the white-sand beaches, fishing villages and coastal communities.

The brute storm that sprang from a weekend tropical depression gained in fury and size just hours ahead of Wednesday’s projected midday landfall, packed 125 mph (200 kph) winds as a dangerous Category 3 storm. Forecasters say it’s expected to keep strengthening in the final hours before it crashes ashore as potentially one of the worst hurricanes in the region’s history.

Florida officials said roughly 375,000 people up and down the Gulf Coast had been urged or ordered to evacuate. Evacuations spanned 22 counties from the Florida Panhandle into north central Florida.


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