Hurricane Michael has reached Category 4 strength as the eye of the storm is just hours away from landing on the Florida Panhandle Wednesday.
The National Hurricane Center reported maximum sustained winds of 145 mph as of 11 a.m. Wednesday, with the center of circulation approximately 60 miles south of Panama City. The system is moving to the north-northeast at 14 mph, meaning the eye will be heading over land later this afternoon.
Michael’s outer bands and tropical storm forced winds have been buffeting the Panhandle all morning, and with hurricane force winds extending 45 miles from the center, conditions are likely to rapidly deteriorate over the next few hours.
The National Weather Service has reported a wind gust of 46 mph in Tallahassee, while an airfield in Bald Point along the Apalachicola National Forest, is reported sustained winds of 54 mph with gusts over 60 mph.
Storm surge has the potential to be devastating for many of the coastal communities and barrier islands along the coasts, with storm surges projected to reach as high as 14 feet along the hardest hit areas of the Panhandle.
After 11 years without a hurricane making landfall in Florida, a record period, Michael’s landfall makes three in three years following 2016’s Hurricane Hermine and last year’s Hurricane Irma. Hermine made landfall near St. Marks as a Category 1 storm.
The state has activated the Florida Disaster Fund to support those who are in the storm’s path. To donate, visit FloridaDisasterFund.org, or text DISASTER to 20222 to make a one-time $10 donation.
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