Hurricane Michael forms in the western Caribbean, takes aim at Florida’s Panhandle
Hurricane Michael was upgraded from a tropical storm Monday, and forecasters say the Midlands area of South Carolina can expect to feel the impact Wednesday and Thursday.
The storm was 90 miles east of Cozumel, Mexico, at 5 a.m. Monday, and was upgraded to a hurricane around 10:30 a.m. It’s expected to make landfall somewhere along the panhandle of Florida on Wednesday; however, it’s still too early to tell how strong it will be at that point, according to Hunter Coleman, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Columbia.
“Given the current forecast track, we could start seeing some impacts possibly as early as Wednesday night, mainly during the day Thursday,” Coleman said of the Columbia area. “It could linger into Friday, depending on how fast it moves through.”
It’s still too early to say what impact the storm will have on the Midlands area, but Coleman said it could bring potentially significant rainfall or gusty winds. Depending on the storm’s track, he said, there could be a threat for an isolated tornado.
The forecast could bring winds to the Midlands that are more powerful than what was experienced during Hurricane Florence in September, according to Midlands Weather, which said the impacts could be worse.
After starting Wednesday, winds will increase over the night and into Thursday, and some of the strongest wind gusts will reach 45-50 mph, according to the National Weather Service in Columbia.
Tropical storm watches are possible for the Midlands, according to a forecast released by Columbia Metropolitan Airport Monday evening.
Rainfall totals are forecast to be from 3-6 inches, with locally higher amounts possible, NWS Columbia reported.
“The exact location and the severity of what Hurricane Michael does to our state will depend on its intensity,” SCEMD Director Kim Stenson said in a news release. “Given the uncertainty of the storm’s strength and path as it approaches South Carolina, residents need to have their personal emergency plans ready to go just in case we need to take safety precautions later in the week.”
Coleman had good news for the Palmetto State, which is still reeling from a hit by Hurricane Florence last month.
“Once the storm does move on land, it should be accelerating and move through relatively quickly,” he said. “It won’t linger around for days like Florence did.”
That’s because an upper level trough moving into the middle part of the country will pick up the system and quickly move it out, Coleman said.
Officially, the forecast for the Columbia area includes an 80 percent chance of rain Wednesday and Thursday with high temperatures in the mid-80s, according to the National Weather Service. The chance for rain drops to 50 percent Friday with a high near 79.
After the storm rolls through, conditions around Columbia are expected to improve by the weekend, Coleman said, with the forecast showing mostly sunny skies with highs in the mid 70s Saturday and Sunday.
“We’ll finally get a taste of fall when some colder, dryer air will get into the region,” he said.
The South Carolina Emergence Management Division reported Monday afternoon it is operating at the “second lowest response level, above normal ... activities,” but is preparing to respond should the conditions deteriorate.