Washington DC [USA], Oct 10 (ANI): Hurricane Michael has been upgraded to a "major" Category 3 storm, as it continues to hurtle towards the United States' Gulf Coast, where it is expected to make landfall in the next few hours, forecasters said.
According to an advisory from the National Hurricane Center (NHC), the storm, moving northward at 12 mph, was situated about 295 miles south of Panama City in Florida at around 5 pm (local time).
Michael, packed with fierce winds of up to 120 mph, was forecast to drench parts of the northeastern Gulf Coast and bring "life-threatening storm surge," the advisory said. It added that the "worst" storm surge is expected to see 9 feet to 13 feet inundation between Mexico Beach and Keaton Beach in Florida.
"On the forecast track, the center of Michael will move across the eastern Gulf of Mexico through tonight. The center of Michael is then expected to move inland over the Florida Panhandle or Florida Big Bend area on Wednesday, and then move northeastward across the southeastern United States Wednesday night and Thursday, and move off the Mid-Atlantic coast away from the United States on Friday," the NHC said.
The meteorological agency stated that Michael is predicted to become "a major hurricane" by the time it strikes Florida, following which the storm is anticipated to weaken.
According to a tweet from the National Weather Service, parts of Florida, Georgia and South Carolina could see "life-threatening flash flooding" due to torrential rainfall.
The advisory comes after US President Donald Trump declared a state of emergency in Florida, by extending federal assistance to supplement state and local response efforts due to the emergency conditions resulting from Michael.
"The President's action authorizes the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to coordinate all disaster relief efforts which have the purpose of alleviating the hardship and suffering caused by the emergency on the local population, and to provide appropriate assistance for required emergency measures, authorized under Title V of the Stafford Act, to save lives and to protect property and public health and safety, and to lessen or avert the threat of a catastrophe," a statement by the White House had earlier said.
"Specifically, FEMA is authorized to identify, mobilize, and provide at its discretion, equipment and resources necessary to alleviate the impacts of the emergency. Debris removal and emergency protective measures, including direct federal assistance, will be provided at 75 per cent Federal funding in the counties of Bay, Calhoun, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Hamilton, Jackson, Jefferson, Leon, Liberty, Madison, Suwannee, Taylor, and Wakulla. Emergency protective measures, limited to direct federal assistance will be provided at 75 per cent funding in the counties of Alachua, Baker, Bradford, Citrus, Columbia, Dixie, Escambia, Gilchrist, Hernando, Hillsborough, Holmes, Lafayette, Levy, Manatee, Okaloosa, Pasco, Pinellas, Santa Rosa, Union, Walton, and Washington," it had added.
The statement had further said that Thomas J. McCool was named as the Federal Coordinating Officer for recovery operations in the affected areas.
Earlier, Trump had also taken to his Twitter handle and warned residents about the hurricane and requested them to listen to local officials to stay safe.
"Hurricane on its way to the Florida Pan Handle with major elements arriving tomorrow. Could also hit, in later stage, parts of Georgia, and unfortunately North Carolina, and South Carolina, again... Looks to be a Cat. 3 which is even more intense than Florence. Good news is, the folks in the Pan Handle can take care of anything. @FEMA and First Responders are ready - be prepared! It is imperative that you heed the directions of your State and Local Officials. Please be prepared, be careful and be SAFE!" the US President wrote on the micro-blogging site, along with a satellite image of Hurricane Michael.
The dreaded storm has already wreaked havoc in Central America, where 13 people have been reported dead. Parts of western Cuba, where the hurricane, made landfall, was forecast to receive up to a foot of rain. (ANI)