Hurricane Michael labelled 'monstrous and deadly'
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
- Storm upgraded to Category 3
- Up to 30cm of rain predicted in Cuba
- Nursing staff warned to avoid repeat of Irma deaths
- 'Life-threatening' storm surges and floods predicted
AUTHORITIES have warned that Hurricane Michael is likely to become a "monstrous" major storm by Tuesday night (local time) before it smashes into Florida on Wednesday.
Forecasters fear it will bring "life-threatening" storm surges and flash flooding - and potentially even tornadoes.
States of emergency have been declared for swathes of Florida and Alabama as the storm pounded the Gulf of Mexico and eastern Carribean with winds up to 145kmh - which are expected to hit 179kmh before Michael makes landfall in northern Florida.
The National Hurricane Centre warned of storms surges up to four metres and issued a string of alerts for coastal sites, The Independent reported.
On the Panhandle, Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan advised residents that "if you decide to stay in your home and a tree falls on your house or the storm surge catches you ... there's no-one that can respond to help you".
Emergency declarations have been issued for 35 counties as well as the entire state of Alabama.
Hurricane Michael is already causing tidal flooding here in SW Florida. My buddy @Jeffrey96636788 just sent me this video from Blind Pass on Northern Sanibel. He says there is at least 1-2 feet of water in this house. It's not even high tide yet. #HurricaneMichael pic.twitter.com/gLTSGzWweU— Ed Krassenstein (@EdKrassen) October 9, 2018
Law enforcement warned people who planned to ride out the storm at home that help may not be able to reach them in the immediate aftermath.
Forecasters have warned Hurricane Michael could dump up to 30cm of rain in western Cuba, possibly causing flash floods and mudslides in mountainous areas.
President Donald Trump, who was in Orlando delivering an address to a global association of police chiefs, said the federal government was ready and urged residents to be prepared for the worst.
"Can you believe it? It looks like another big one," he said.
Elsewhere, disaster agencies in El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua have reported 13 deaths after roofs collapsed and residents were carried away by swollen rivers following heavy rains.
Six people have died in Honduras, four in Nicaragua and three in El Salvador. Authorities were also searching for a boy swept away by a river in Guatemala.
Most of the rain was blamed on a low-pressure system off the Pacific coast of El Salvador, though it is thought Hurricane Michael in the Caribbean could have also contributed.
I'm currently in the Citrus County Emergency Operations Center to give an update on Hurricane Michael. Watch here- https://t.co/2UL8ddGPJp— Rick Scott (@FLGovScott) October 9, 2018
Florida's governor, Rick Scott, warned caregivers at north Florida hospitals and nursing homes to do everything they could to ensure the safety of the elderly and infirm.
He warned Hurricane Michael was a deadly storm that could bring "total devastation" to parts of the state.
"EVERY FAMILY must be prepared. We can rebuild your home, but we cannot rebuild your life," Mr Scott said.
The alert came after the tropical storm system strengthened to a Category 1 hurricane, packing maximum sustained
After Hurricane Irma last year, 14 people died when a south Florida nursing home lost power and air conditioning. "If you're responsible for a patient, you're responsible for the patient. Take care of them," he said.
If Michael does make landfall with 179kmh winds it would be a Category 3 hurricane, the strongest to hit Florida in decades.
FLORIDA - It is imperative that you heed the directions of your State and Local Officials. Please be prepared, be careful and be SAFE! #HurricaneMichael https://t.co/VP6PBXfzm9 pic.twitter.com/aKmaDNgZve— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 9, 2018
After striking Florida, Michael is forecast to move up the east coast on Wednesday and Thursday, hitting North and South Carolina which are still recovering from Hurricane Florence last month .
Energy companies stopped nearly a fifth of Gulf of Mexico oil production and evacuated personnel from 10 platforms on Monday.
The region produces some 17 per cent of daily US crude oil output and 5 per cent of daily natural gas output, according to the US Energy Information Administration.
Mark Bowen, Bay County Emergency Services: "We've got shelters open locally...We have got our transit running. People have got no excuse not to get out of this storm's way." #HurricaneMichael @ShepNewsTeam https://t.co/PhUQ0ko02x pic.twitter.com/inUuZ7plrS— Fox News (@FoxNews) October 9, 2018
WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR TRAVELLERS?
Hurricane Michael is in the Gulf of Mexico, currently moving north from the western tip of Cuba, and is poised to bring 161kmh winds to the Florida Panhandle.
A storm surge could see water levels inland rise by four metres.
The National Hurricane Center predicts storm-force winds extending into southeast Alabama and southern Georgia, with the expected path heading northeast along the Atlantic coast towards Washington DC and New York.
What preparations are taking place in Florida?
Some communities are being evacuated ahead of the hurricane. When winds reach 64kmh, the Florida Highway Patrol closes bridges, which will make any subsequent movement difficult.
The state governor, Rick Scott, has tweeted:
I just left Franklin County after giving updates about Hurricane Michael. This storm is DEADLY. It is critical that you listen to local news for reports and warnings from local and state officials as Hurricane Michael approaches FL. pic.twitter.com/mclwT0fsJI— Rick Scott (@FLGovScott) October 9, 2018
What is happening to travel in the area?
Airports are closing and flights are being cancelled. Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport, which is on the path of the hurricane, says: "The Airport will CLOSE and cease all operations starting on Wednesday October 10 at 12.01am local time due to the impacts of Hurricane Michael.
"The airport will remain closed until further updates are provided."
State of emergency declared as Hurricane Michael bears in on US
Other airports in the region, including Pensacola, Panama City, Tallahassee and Mobile in Alabama are likely to do the same.
All the leading US airlines have put "waivers" in place, allowing passengers booked to or from the affected area to postpone their trips. Frontier, JetBlue, Southwest and United are including Atlanta - the world's busiest airport - in the list of southeastern US airports. But Virgin Atlantic and British Airways are not currently offering flexibility.
Among airlines with waivers, the postponement option is generally for passengers booked up to and including Thursday 11 October, with travel to be complete by the weekend.
What is happening to cruise ships in the area?
There are relatively few in the Gulf of Mexico at this time of year. Some itineraries are being adjusted to avoid the hurricane.
We are booked to go to Orlando. Will we be affected?
The National Hurricane Centre says there is about a 30 per cent chance of storm-force winds. But central Florida's theme park capital should certainly escape the worst of the hurricane.
I have a booking to Florida, am I able to change my plans or get a refund?
No. October is squarely in the hurricane season in this part of the world, and "disinclination to travel" is not grounds for a refund, postponement or change in destination.
This article originally appeared on The Independent and is republished here with permission.