Hurricane Michael strengthens into Category 2 storm with 100 miles per hour winds

The Latest Michael strengthens into Category 2 hurricane

The risk of tropical storm force winds has decreased to 20 percent.

Hurricane Michael continues its ascent toward the Florida Panhandle, and while the storm is expected to continue intensifying as it passes more than 200 miles off the coast of Tampa Bay, that doesn't mean the region will not feel its effects.

"We are catching some hell", said Timothy Thomas, who rode out the storm with his wife in their second-floor apartment in Panama City Beach.

The meteorological brute quickly sprang from a weekend tropical depression, becoming a furious Category 4 by early Wednesday, up from a Category 2 less than a day earlier. "This thing came up fast and it wasn't like Irma where we had quite a bit of time to prepare".

In North Carolina, still reeling from the destruction of Hurricane Florence last month, Gov. Roy Cooper warned that Michael could bring moderate storm surge, downed trees and power outages to his sodden state.

As Michael moved over open water, energy companies halted almost one-fifth of Gulf of Mexico oil production and evacuated personnel from 10 platforms on Monday. USA producers in the Gulf cut oil production by about 40 percent and natural gas output by 28 percent on Tuesday, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement said.

Michael wasn't quite done wreaking havoc in the Caribbean on Tuesday.

The governor has declared a state of emergency in 35 counties and is stressing that residents should "absolutely" evacuate if ordered to.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency had numerous teams deployed and ready to respond, said FEMA spokesman Jeff Byard. The Florida National Guard has over 4,000 more Guard members available for deployment, Scott said.

President Donald Trump, speaking to reporters at the White House, said the country was very well prepared for the hurricane, adding it was much bigger than had been expected. Levy County has closed its schools through Thursday; Florida State University, in Tallahassee, has closed as well. "Hopefully more people will leave". Residents also stocked up on food, water and gas.

Franklin County Sheriff A.J. Smith near the vulnerable coast said his deputies had gone door to door in some places urging people to evacuate. They predict Michael will bring torrential rains and winds upwards of 125 miles per hour.

Panama City's Bay County and other counties used their social media channels to alert residents about shelter openings.

"Guess what? That's today", National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham said.

As of 8 a.m., Michael was located about 395 miles south of Panama City, moving north-northwest at 12 mph with maximum sustained winds of 100 mph, a Category 2 hurricane. "This is going to have structure damaging winds along the coast and hurricane force winds inland". Weakening is expected after landfall as Michael moves through the southeastern United States.

Gov. Rick Scott issued a State of Emergency Sunday for 26 counties in anticipation for the storm.

The Florida Peninsula, eastern mid Atlantic and southern New England coast could see as much as 3 inches of rain.

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