Florida officials instituted a wave of hurricane watches as Tropical Storm Michael barnstorms through the Florida Keys on its way to the Gulf of Mexico.
Michael rapidly intensified from Sunday to Monday when its winds increased from 35 mph to 70 mph. Pensacola, Panama City and Tallahassee are among a handful of cities experiencing a hurricane watch as the storm gathers steam.
Watches are typically issued two days before the arrival of tropical-storm-force winds. Officials in parts of Alabama along the state’s border with Florida are also on the lookout for Michael.
Michael is expected to become a hurricane Monday, potentially approaching Category 2 status before it makes landfall, according to The National Hurricane Center. A combination of high upper-level winds and warm sea-surface temperatures along Michael’s path are helping the storm gather strength.
The 2018 hurricane season, which runs from June to roughly November, has not been as active as the one that brought Hurricanes Maria and Harvey to Puerto Rico and Texas in 2017. Forecasters at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicted in May a “75-percent chance that the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season will be near- or above-normal.”
Violent storms are growing in number as hurricane season comes in for a landing. Tropical Storm Florence, for instance, slammed parts of North and South Carolina in September and doused a large portion of the East Coast with near Biblical amounts of rain and storm surge. Florence grew into a hurricane before weakening into a strong storm. (RELATED: 400,000 People Without Power As Florence Slams The Carolinas)
Authorities ordered more than 1 million people to evacuate before Florence hit. Although some disregarded the warning and chose to ride out the storm in their homes, most have fled the area and are staying in government shelters or with friends or family outside the main impact of the storm.
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