Hurricane Michael strengthened into a Category 4 storm early on Wednesday before it was expected to plow into Florida’s Gulf shore with towering waves and roof-shredding winds as 500,000 people were under evacuation orders and advisories.
Hurricane Michael was packing winds of up to 130 miles per hour (210 km per hour), hours before it was set to make landfall on Florida’s Panhandle or Florida’s Big Bend where it potentially could unleash devastating waves as high as 13 feet (4 meters), the National Hurricane Center (NHC) warned.
“THIS IS YOUR LAST CHANCE to evacuate before conditions start deteriorating within the next few hours,” said Florida Governor Rick Scott in a Tweet early on Wednesday.
President Donald Trump declared a state of emergency for the entire state of Florida, freeing up federal assistance to supplement state and local disaster responses.
Michael gathered greater strength over warm Gulf of Mexico waters throughout the day on Tuesday as it jumped from a Category 2 to Category 3 on the five-step Saffir-Simpson wind scale.
The last NHC report said the fast-moving storm was about 180 miles (325 km) from Panama City, Florida.
Winds as strong as Michael is producing can inflict substantial damage to roofs and walls of even well-constructed homes, according to the National Weather Service.
NHC Director Ken Graham said Michael represented a “textbook case” of a hurricane system growing stronger as it drew near shore, in contrast to Hurricane Florence, which struck North Carolina last month after weakening in a slow, halting approach.
Hurricane-force winds extend about 45 miles from the center, with tropical storm-force winds reaching 175 miles, the NHC said.
The storm is likely to dump prodigious amounts of rain over Florida, Alabama and Georgia, as well as the Carolinas – still reeling from post-Florence flooding – and into Virginia. Up to a foot of rainfall (30 cm) is forecast for some areas.
The region should brace for “major infrastructure damage,” specifically to electricity distribution, wastewater treatment systems and transportation networks, Jeff Byard, associate administrator for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), told reporters on a conference call.
Byard said an estimated 500,000 people were under evacuation orders and advisories in Florida, where residents and tourists were fleeing low-lying areas in at least 20 counties stretching along 200 miles (322 km) of shore in the Panhandle and adjacent Big Bend region.
Among them was Betty Early, 75, a retiree who joined about 300 fellow evacuees huddled on makeshift bedrolls of blankets and collapsed cardboard boxes at an elementary school converted into an American Red Cross shelter in Panama City, near the storm’s expected landfall.
She was unsure how well her old, wood-framed apartment block would hold up. “I’m blessed to have a place to come,” she told Reuters. “My greatest concern is not having electricity, and living on a fixed income, losing my food.”
“THIS STORM COULD KILL YOU”
A hurricane warning was posted along more than 300 miles (483 km) of the coast from the Florida-Alabama border south to the Suwannee River.
“If you don’t follow warnings from officials this storm could kill you,” said Scott, a Republican running for the U.S. Senate in November’s congressional elections.
While the swiftly moving storm is not expected to linger over Florida for long, widespread heavy downpours will likely track inland to flood-stricken areas of the Carolinas even as rain-gorged rivers there begin to recede, National Weather Service meteorologist Ken Widelski told the conference call.
Some of the storm’s most significant early impact was to offshore energy production. U.S. 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.
Scott declared a state of emergency in 35 Florida counties, mostly encompassing rural areas known for small tourist cities, beaches, wildlife reserves and Tallahassee, the state capital.
Georgia Governor Nathan Deal declared a state of emergency on Tuesday for 92 counties in his state.
About 2,500 National Guard troops were deployed to assist with evacuations and storm preparations, and more than 4,000 others were on standby. Some 17,000 utility restoration workers were also on call.
In Panhandle counties, most state offices, schools and universities were closed for the rest of the week. Lines at gasoline stations grew as people left. Those who stayed emptied grocery store shelves of water and other supplies.
The last major hurricane to hit the Panhandle was Hurricane Dennis in 2005, according to hurricane center data.
Torrential downpours and flash flooding from the storm over the weekend caused 13 deaths in Central America.
Reporting by Devika Krishna Kumar in Tallahassee, Florida; additional reporting by Rod Nickel in Panama City, Florida, Susan Heavey and Roberta Rampton in Washington, Gina Cherelus and Barbara Goldberg in New York, Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee, Liz Hampton in Houston, Andrew Hay in New Mexico; writing by Steve Gorman; editing by Phil Berlowitz, Cynthia Osterman, Leslie Adler and Louise Heavens
Theresa May Survives Confidence Vote
British Prime Minister Theresa May can rest easy after winning a vote of confidence on Wednesday night in the conservative party by 200 to 117.
After alighting from the vote last night unscathed, she is now immune from a leadership challenge for a year.
But rocky road still lies ahead as she tries to push through a vote in parliament to adopt her Brexit deal with the EU.
After the all important confidence vote on wednesday night, May was in Brussels again thursday morning to finetune the divorce deal she had struck for Britain.
May vowed, after vote results were announced on Wednesday night, that she will deliver the brexit “people voted for.”
She acknowledged the rather high number of her MPs who had voted against her. She promised to listen to, and address, their concerns.
The vote was triggered by 48 of her MPs who are angry at her Brexit policy. They say the deal betrays the demands of the 2016 referendum result.
IATA Forecasts Airlines Will Generate $3b More In 2019
The International Air Transport Association (IATA), which represents most global carriers, has forecast airlines will generate $3 billion more in total profits in 2019. The industry realized $32 billion this year. IATA says although airlines face increased taxes, they will carry more passengers next year that would boost industry profits.
Iata says airlines in North America are performing the best, but Africa remains the weakest region for aviation.
Net profits for airlines across Africa are expected to fall, for the fourth consecutive year next year by three-tenths of a percent.
Losses for carriers across Africa have widened as fuel costs have increased.
UN Urges Immediate Action On Climate Change
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Wednesday at the ongoing 24th Conference of Parties (COP24) in Poland that it will “not only be immoral, but suicidal”, should the world body fail to agree on climate change action.
He challenged the more than 100 government leaders gathered in Katowice to find consensus and “finish the job”, noting the roadblocks continuing at the (COP24) climate change conference over how to implement the historic 2015 Paris Agreement.
Since Dec. 2, the conference has brought together thousands of climate action decision-makers, advocates and activists, with one key objective – to adopt global guidelines for the 197 parties of the 2015 Paris Agreement.
The 197 parties of the 2015 Paris Agreement committed to limiting global warming to less than 2 degrees Centigrade – and as close as possible to 1.5 degrees Centigrade – above pre-industrial levels.
As the conference nears its end, the UN chief acknowledged progress in the negotiations but said a lot still remains to be done.
- Theresa May Survives Confidence Vote December 13, 2018
- EU Rejects Bid To Unfreeze Mubarak’s Assets December 13, 2018
- IATA Forecasts Airlines Will Generate $3b More In 2019 December 13, 2018
- Thousands Of Voting Machines And Ballot Boxes Destroyed In DRC Electoral Commission Fire December 13, 2018
- IATA Inaugurates Turbulence Aware Data Resource To Forecast Turbulence December 13, 2018
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