5-mile-per-hour change in wind speed took Michael from a tropical storm to hurricane status, prompting evacuation orders in Florida.
Florida Governor Rick Scott issued a state of emergency on Sunday and urged residents to get ready for the storm by stockpiling at least three days’ worth of food, water and medicine.
“EVERY FAMILY must be prepared,” Scott tweeted. “We can rebuild your home, but we cannot rebuild your life.”
On Monday, hours after the storm gained hurricane-level wind strength, evacuations were ordered for areas in Florida. In Hernando County, a voluntary evacuation order was issued for coastal zone levels A and B starting Tuesday at 8:00 a.m. EDT.
Rosa, the county strongly urged residents living in mobile homes and campers or at campsites and low-lying areas to evacuate ahead of the storm making landfall.
The Wakulla County Sheriff’s Office announced that a mandatory evacuation would begin at 8 p.m. EDT on Monday for Zone A. Zone A constitutes areas in coastal and low-lying areas, as well as residents living in mobile homes and other weak structures.
“Citizens that are evacuating should evacuate to an area outside of the storm’s path,” Sheriff Jared Miller said. “Neighboring counties will also be in the storm’s path and at risk.”
Miller advised residents to evacuate to Leon County because none of the storm shelters in Wakulla County are safe during a Category 3 hurricane, which Michael is forecasted to become by landfall.
Bay County also issued a mandatory evacuation order, set to take effect at 6 a.m. EDT on Tuesday morning, meaning residents should evacuate before that time. The mandatory evacuation order was in place for three of the four evacuation zones: A, B and C.
Zone A is along the water and typically the first zone to be ordered to evacuate because of the danger posed by storm surges, according to Bay County. Zone A would be followed by Zone B, then Zone C; Zone D would receive the order last.
“We are running out of time. TODAY is the day to get a plan, because tomorrow could be too late,” Scott tweeted. “It is critical that you take care of yourself, your family, and your business as Hurricane Michael approaches [Florida].”
Ahead of the official orders, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum advised anyone who is dependent on electricity for survival to consider leaving and not ride out the storm. On Monday morning he said the storm was expected to be worse than Hurricane Hermine, which hit in 2016, and that people should expect power outages.
“The number one concern we have is life and safety for folks,” Gillum said. “If you are able to and are willing to get yourself to a safer position we would encourage that decision making.”
Hurricane Matthew became a named storm on Sunday and was identified as a Category 1 hurricane on Monday morning, when its maximum sustained winds reached 75 mph. The storm is expected to gain strength and turn into a major hurricane, meaning Category 3 or higher, on Tuesday or Tuesday night.
Michael is moving at about 7 mph in a northern motion toward the western tip of Cuba, according to the National Hurricane Center (NHC). It is expected to move into the southeastern Gulf of Mexico by Monday night, then move east and inland to the Florida Panhandle or Big Bend area on Wednesday.
Up to 12 inches of rain are forecasted for isolated parts of Florida and Cuba, prompting possibly life-threatening flash floods. A hurricane warning was issued for Pinar del Rio in Cuba, and a hurricane watch was in effect for the Alabama-Florida border to the Suwannee River in Florida.
It’s possible that rain from Hurricane Michael could venture north to the Carolinas, which are still dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Florence. Fortunately, hurricane expert Dan Kottlowski told AccuWeather that he expected less rainfall from Michael than the Carolinas had during Florence.