Michael gained new strength over warm tropical waters amid fears it would swiftly intensify into a major hurricane before striking Florida’s northeast Gulf Coast, where frantic coastal dwellers are boarding up homes and seeking evacuation routes away from the dangerous storm heading their way.
A hurricane hunter plane that bounced into the swirling eye of Michael off the west tip of Cuba late Monday found wind speeds were rising even as forecasters warned the storm could reach major hurricane status with winds topping 111 mph (179 kph) by Tuesday night. Anticipate landfall is expected Wednesday on the northeast Gulf Coast, where authorities warned of a potentially devastating strike. By late Monday, Michael’s top sustained winds had risen some to 90 mph (144 kph) as it headed north at 12 mph (19 kph). The storm was centered about 450 miles (724 kilometers) south of Apalachicola. Hurricane-force winds extended outward up to 35 miles (56 kilometers) from the core and tropical-storm-force winds out 175 miles (280 kilometers). Hurricane-force winds extended outward up to 35 miles (56 kilometers) from the core and tropical-storm-force winds out 175 miles (280 kilometers). Michael was lashing western Cuba on Monday with heavy rains and strong winds.
Florida residents can create a disaster plan, get information on road closures, shelters, and evacuation routes at www.floridadisaster.org.