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Hurricane Michael is now an “extremely dangerous” Category 4 storm, with 140 mph sustained winds as it heads through Florida into the southeastern United States.
The storm is moving through the Gulf of Mexico at 13 mph and is expected to make landfall Wednesday afternoon on the Florida Panhandle or Big Bend area with “life-threatening storm surge, dangerous winds and heavy rainfall,” according to the National Hurricane Center.
Impact from the storm will be felt through the Carolinas into Virginia, including predictions of 4 to 10 inches of rain. Winds from the rain could be felt starting late Wednesday in the Carolinas.
“Michael is an extremely dangerous Category 4 hurricane (and) some additional strengthening is possible before landfall,” said a National Weather Center update.
Category 4 storm winds are in the 130 mph range to 156 mph. The Weather Channel is predicting the storm will maintain Category 4 strength until it makes landfall, with heavy impact on the Florida coast.
After landfall, the storm will move northeast at a faster forward speed, where it is expected to spawn flash flooding and possibly tornadoes as it moves north, the weather center says.
A Tropical Storm Warning has been issued for multiple counties in northeast South Carolina and southeastern North Carolina, the same area hit last month by Hurricane Florence’s winds and flash flooding. Winds in the 39 to 73 mph are expected in the next 24 hours in the Carolinas, along with “flooding rain.”
“The overly saturated ground and weakened trees will still allow for an elevated wind risk and some power outages will occur. Flash flooding will also be possible though the storm’s rapid motion should limit rainfall amounts,” said a National Weather Service statement.
Michael’s hurricane force winds are extending 45 miles out from the eye of the storm, and tropical force winds are being felt 185 miles away, says the National Hurricane Center.
Wind gusts of 54 mph and 64 mph have been recorded at NOAA buoys in the Gulf of Mexico, said the hurricane center.
“Michael is likely to produce potentially catastrophic wind damage where the core of the hurricane moves onshore in the Florida Panhandle, and everyone in the hurricane warning area should prepare for life-threatening hurricane winds,” said a statement issued early Wednesday.
Mark Price: 704-358-5245, @markprice_obs