Hurricane Michael forms in the western Caribbean, takes aim at Florida’s Panhandle
Tropical Storm Michael officially became Hurricane Michael Monday morning and it’s expected to bring heavy winds, up to 6 inches of rain and a chance of flash floods to parts of the Carolinas later this week, according to the National Hurricane Center.
The Category 1 hurricane became a Category 3 by Tuesday afternoon is expected to make landfall on the Florida panhandle Wednesday, with storm surge in the 8 to 12 foot range and isolated areas of up to 12 inches of rain, reported the center. Monday night, the storm picked up speed from9 to 12 mph at it headed north, the center said.
“A slightly faster forward speed is expected through Tuesday night,” said a 8 p.m. update on the storm.
“Maximum sustained winds have increased to near 90 mph with higher gusts,” said the 11 p.m. update. “Steady to rapid strengthening is forecast during the next day or so, and Michael is forecast to become a major hurricane by Tuesday night.”
The storm could dump 4 to 6 inches rain on parts of both Carolinas and flash floods are possible in all of South Carolina and parts of North Carolina, experts say. Charlotte and areas to the east can expect that same 4 to 6 inches, while areas to the immediate north and west of Charlotte could see 2 to 4 inches, according to an expected-rainfall map update issued by the National Weather Service at 5 p.m. Tuesday.
Winds in the 40 to 50 mph range will reach the South Carolina border midday Wednesday, and North Carolina by 8 p.m. Wednesday, says the center. A stretch of counties along the southeastern South Carolina-Georgia border could see winds in the 60 mph range.
Winds in Charlotte are expected to be from 30 to 40 mph, according to a National Hurricane Center 1 p.m. Tuesday update.
Once the storm makes landfall on the Gulf Coast, it is expected to head northeast Wednesday and Thursday. Impact on the Charlotte area could come late Thursday or early Friday, the center says.
Hurricane force winds are currently extending 35 miles from the center of the storm, and Tropical Force winds (39 to 73 mph) are extending 175 miles out from the center, officials said.
A Hurricane Watch is in effect for the Florida panhandle, and a tropical storm watch is in effect much of Florida’s west coast, reports the center.
Staff Writer Joe Marusak contributed.