Hurricane Michael gains strength as Floridians flee to higher ground

Hurricane Michael gains strength as Floridians flee to higher ground

Florida State University announced it was closing for the week on Tuesday, along with schools in Leon County, home to the state capital Tallahassee.

Employees were hoping to protect the restaurant from floodwaters as Hurricane Michael continues to churn in the Gulf of Mexico heading for the Florida panhandle.

President Trump has declared a state of emergency for the entire state of Florida, and Governor Rick Scott pleaded on Wednesday with anyone in an evacuation zone - around 500,000 people - to "leave RIGHT NOW", or risk their lives.

Hurricaene Michael is expected to be "extremely dangerous" by meteorologists. Around midday it was expected to become one of the Panhandle's worst hurricanes in memory with heavy rainfall expected along the northeastern Gulf Coast and life-threatening storm surge of up to 13 feet (4 meters).

The National Hurricane Center called Michael "potentially catastrophic" and "extremely risky". Storm surges and subsequent flooding remain a major concern as governors across the region declare states of emergency and residents either flee or hunker down.

Currently, Michael is located 295 miles south of Panama City, Florida, and 270 miles south-southwest of Apalachicola, Florida.

While the storm loomed over the Gulf of Mexico on Tuesday, cameras aboard the International Space Station captured views of Hurricane Michael at 12:13pm and 12:50pm ET.

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Winds of that magnitude can inflict substantial damage to roofs and walls of even well-constructed homes, according to the National Weather Service.

Forecasters in Alabama warned of possible tornados.

Michael was forecast to have the power to uproot trees, block roads and knock out power for days by the time it hits Florida on Wednesday.

Anxious meteorologists said it had the potential of becoming one of the worst storms in the history of Florida's Panhandle.

The storm caused widespread destruction in Central America over the weekend, where at least 13 people have been reported dead.

By late Tuesday, Michael was causing major disruptions to USA oil and gas production as it churned north, gathering greater strength over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico.President Donald Trump declared a state of emergency for the entire state of Florida, freeing up federal assistance to supplement state and local disaster response.

"The time for evacuating along the coast has come and gone". USA producers in the Gulf cut oil production by about 40 percent and natural gas output by 28 percent on Tuesday, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement said.

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