Governor Rick Scott of Florida warned that Hurricane Michael, a Category 4 storm, would be the worst storm to hit the Panhandle in a century.Published
PANAMA CITY, Fla. — Hurricane Michael opened its bombardment of the Florida Panhandle on Wednesday morning, with wind and rain beginning to batter the coastline hours before the strengthening Category 4 storm was expected to make landfall with astonishing power.
The authorities warned that it was too late to flee the storm, which the National Hurricane Center described as “potentially catastrophic” with maximum sustained winds of 150 miles per hour.
“This is the worst storm that our Florida Panhandle has seen in a century,” Gov. Rick Scott of Florida warned. “Hurricane Michael is upon us, and now is the time to seek refuge.”
Here’s the latest:
• The hurricane is expected to be the strongest recorded storm to make landfall on the Panhandle. “This will be a catastrophic event the likes of which this region has never seen,” the National Weather Service office in Tallahassee, Fla., warned.
• The storm was about 35 miles southwest of Mexico Beach, Fla., as of 12 p.m., moving toward the coast at 14 m.p.h., according to the National Hurricane Center. Click on the map below to see the storm’s projected path.
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Where Is Hurricane Michael? Tracking the Storm’s Path and Potential Impact
The storm is expected to be the worst ever to hit the Florida Panhandle.
Oct. 8, 2018
• The eye of Michael is expected to make landfall in the Florida Panhandle on Wednesday afternoon, tracking northeast across Georgia and the Carolinas on Thursday before moving off the Mid-Atlantic coast on Friday.
• Weather forecasters and government officials are particularly worried about a storm surge, which they said could reach 13 feet in some areas, in a relatively flat region that is particularly vulnerable to it.
• Flash flooding is also a concern. The Florida Panhandle and Big Bend region, southeast Alabama and parts of Georgia could receive four to eight inches of rain, with some spots getting as much as a foot.
• The governors of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina have all declared emergencies for at least parts of their states, encompassing tens of millions of residents.
• The authorities said about 375,000 people live in areas covered by evacuation orders, but it was not clear how many had chosen to flee. The American Red Cross said that about 4,000 people slept in shelters on Tuesday. Here’s where to find shelter from Hurricane Michael.
• With the hurricane hitting in the month before a general election, for politicians “it’s a chance to show leadership, but it’s also a chance to fail at leadership.” Read more here.
• Follow New York Times journalists on the scene: Patricia Mazzei in Tallahassee, Richard Fausset in Panama City and Alan Blinder in Atlanta.
Praying for safety in Panama City
In Panama City, the rain was already coming with that ominous hurricane rhythm, the outer bands of the storm bringing drizzle, followed by unhinged gushing, followed by drizzle again.
In the pre-dawn darkness, a few cars crawled down wide boulevards lined with closed-up retail shops and gas stations. About six blocks from the water, Pastor Carlos Thomas was standing on the front porch of Neal’s Temple First Born Church of the Living God, flagging down a passer-by in a driving band of rain.
He had driven the church’s big, shiny new tour bus from a tree-shrouded area to an open field across from the church where he thought it might be safer.
The sun is rising over the eye of #HurricaneMichael, as seen by #GOESEast. The @NHC_Atlantic warns that some additional strengthening is possible before the Cat. 4 storm makes landfall. Follow Michael on our Atlantic hurricane tracker: https://t.co/4TUMYLzDG9 pic.twitter.com/UD6FG6Hopb
— NOAA Satellites (@NOAASatellites) October 10, 2018
Pastor Thomas, 48, has spent his whole life in Panama City, and he said he remembered Hurricane Eloise, which passed near here in 1975 and caused millions of dollars in damage. But he said that Panama City had mostly been safe in his lifetime.
So he, like so many thousands on the Panhandle, had decided to ride it out.
“I believe from what I’ve seen in the past, we’re going to be O.K.,” he said. “I’m thinking God’s going to take us through it.”
Pastor Thomas said some of his flock had evacuated, particularly the old and infirm. But it was unclear how many people had decided to stay along the Gulf Coast.
A brother and sister, John and Laurie Hamm, had moved their mother, who has Alzheimer’s disease, to the Hilton Garden Inn, a few miles inland. Her house was near downtown Panama City, right along Watson Bayou. Ms. Hamm herself said that she lives in a townhouse one block from the beach.
“When they started a couple of days ago and said it was going to be a Category 1, it was, like, ‘Cat 1, no big deal,’” Ms. Hamm said. “When they said Cat 2, it was like, ‘Oh maybe we’d better pay attention.’ And when they said Cat 3 it was like, ‘Oh, Lord.’”