As residents of the Florida panhandle and big bend scrambled to flee their homes, Hurricane Michael strengthened to a Category 4 Hurricane over night putting it on track to rival the strongest storms to ever make landfall in that part of the country. As one meteorologist pointed out, if Michael doesn’t weaken before making landfall late Wednesday, it would surpass Hurricane Eloise, which wrecked the panhandle in 1975, and the Pensacola Hurricane of 1882 for strongest winds ever recorded for a landfall in the panhandle. If the storm’s 140 mph+ wind speeds are maintained, Michael could be the strongest storm to hit the area since the dawn of record-keeping in 1851.
While Florida residents are somewhat accustomed to record-breaking storms, according to the Weather Channel, “no long-time residents of this area will have seen a hurricane this strong before.” Stores in the region have started rationing supplies like water and generators as residents have scrambled to stock up while state of emergencies have been issued in Florida and Alabama. The National Weather Service described the storm as “extremely dangerous.”
Hurricane warnings are in effect for the Florida Gulf Coast from the Alabama-Florida border to Suwanee River, Fla. This includes Pensacola, Panama City, Destin and Tallahassee. Warnings also extend inland to southwestern Georgia, including Albany. Hurricane Warnings are issued a day-and-a-half before the anticipated arrival of tropical storm force winds. Nearly 4 million people live in these areas, while another 8.5 million live in areas facing tropical storm warnings.