PANAMA CITY, Florida (AP) — The Latest on Hurricane Michael (all times Eastern):
A Red Cross official says it’s possible that as many as 320,000 people on Florida’s Gulf Coast did not evacuate and are likely riding out the storm.
Evacuation orders were sent by state and local officials to about 325,000 people. Emergency managers say they don’t know how many left the area, but there were about 6,000 people in 80 shelters in five states, including nearly 1,200 who are still in shelters following Hurricane Florence.
Michael went from a tropical storm to a projected Category 3 hurricane in around six hours and could have caught thousands off guard.
Brad Kieserman is the Vice President of Operations and Logistics for the American Red Cross. He says the storm “intensified extremely quickly and didn’t give anyone enough time to do much.”
The director of the National Hurricane Center says Michael is going to keep its strength even as it moves into Alabama and Georgia.
By 3 p.m. EDT, Michael still had top sustained winds of 150 mph (240 kph) as its core moved over Florida’s Panhandle.
Michael made landfall near Mexico Beach, Florida, earlier Wednesday afternoon with 155 mph (250 kph) winds.
Hurricane center director Ken Graham says that when a storm comes ashore with winds that strong, “it’s going to stay a hurricane for a while.”
Michael’s large size means its winds will continue pushing storm surge inland as well. The hurricane center said a National Ocean Service water level station in Apalachicola has reported storm surge of nearly 8 feet (2.5 meters) above ground.
Supercharged by abnormally warm waters in the Gulf of Mexico, Hurricane Michael tore away tree limbs and sent pieces of buildings flying Wednesday as it struck Panama City, Florida. (Oct. 10)