Threatening Florida's Panhandle, Michael Becomes A Category 4 Hurricane
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
We are watching yet another hurricane. This time, its name is Michael, and it is headed directly for the Florida Panhandle. That's where it's expected to make landfall later today. The hurricane intensified overnight. It is now a Category 4 storm. Here's Florida Governor Rick Scott yesterday.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
RICK SCOTT: This storm is deadly. Do not take a chance. Think about the destruction we've seen before with storms like Hurricane Irma. The Panhandle and Big Bend will likely see winds in excess of 110 miles per hour. Stop to think about that, 110-miles-per-hour winds.
MARTIN: Today, winds are clocking in at around 145 miles per hour. NPR's Greg Allen is following the storm from Tallahassee and joins us now. Greg, what does it look like out the window where you are?
GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: Well, it's remarkably calm here still. The storm is this monster right offshore. But we're just starting to feel the outer bands, you know, a little wind, a little rain. But even in the - right at the coast, in Panama City and areas like that, where it's close to where it's going to make landfall, they're just starting to get the outer bands. But it's a fast-moving storm. We should be seeing it here by this afternoon.
Here in Tallahassee, the main concern is all the trees we have here, which are these big live oak trees with Spanish moss festooned on them. Those trees can be very susceptible to wind damage. And if we get these hurricane-force or tropical-storm-force winds, even - 'cause we're a bit farther from where the eye's expected to be - that's likely to bring down some of those trees and cause extensive power outages.
MARTIN: So we heard the governor there saying, people, you've got to leave. Don't take anything for granted. Are people heeding that message? Are people out?
ALLEN: You know, I think so. It's hard to, you know, to judge. But, you know, hundreds of thousands of people are under voluntary or mandatory evacuation orders here. The most concerns are along the Panhandle coastal communities - Bay County, Franklin County, Gulf County, those areas. And those are not really populated counties. There's a lot of visitors there for resorts, for beach areas.
And so I think the sense is there's really very little reason for people to have stayed. And in Bay County, at least one shelter is full, so we know that some people are taking heed. We're starting to see some storm surge - storm surge flooding already in areas like Apalachicola and Cedar Key, some of these low-lying fishing communities right on the beach. And so, you know, the roads are going to be - going to be blocked fairly soon in some of these areas. So if people haven't gotten out, the time is running out.
MARTIN: I mean, we should always be careful of using superlatives when talking about big weather events, but a lot of people are calling this historic. It is a Cat 4 now - Category 4. Has the Florida Panhandle ever seen anything like this?
ALLEN: No, not in recorded history. I mean, it's unusual for Category 4 storms to make landfall in the U.S. at all. There's not been one here. And in October, hurricanes - Category 4 - are even more rare. In this area, they've seen some big hurricanes over the years - Ivan in 2004, Dennis in 2005. And the big one was Opal in '95. That was a similar pattern. It came up in October from the Caribbean, brought this massive storm surge. That was just a Category 3, though. So Michael's going to go far beyond that we believe. One other thing to note is that there's a red tide algae bloom that's been happening in the Gulf now for a year.
ALLEN: Michael has pushed that up to the Florida Panhandle beaches. People are noting it in Navarre Beach and others. We heard from Debbie Elliott, our NPR reporter who is out there, saw it herself yesterday. So that's another legacy that we're gonna get from this storm.
MARTIN: All right, NPR's Greg Allen tracking Hurricane Michael from his post there in Tallahassee. It's expected to make landfall later today. Greg, thanks so much.
ALLEN: You're welcome.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.