Tracking the tropics: Hurricane Michael nears Florida as Category 4 storm


HOUSTON – Hurricane Michael has strengthened to a Category 4 storm Wednesday with winds of 140 mph as it is only hours away from landfall Florida Panhandle.

Here’s what you should know about it.

What we know

Michael is expected to make landfall early Wednesday afternoon likely between Panama City Beach and Port St. Joe along the Florida Panhandle as a Category 4 hurricane.

Significant to catastrophic impacts are expected for Florida including life-threatening storm surge, damaging winds and tornadoes.

Hurricane warnings have been issued for much of the Gulf Coast of North Florida.

Steering currents are well defined for Michael. An area of high pressure off the East Coast combined with a cold front moving through Texas will continue to funnel Michael toward the Florida Panhandle.

This storm will not be heading toward Southeast Texas. In fact, dry air on the back side of Michael will help bring beautiful weather to Houston beginning Wednesday afternoon. The one concern is for coastal flooding, wave run-up and dangerous rip currents along the Texas coast until the hurricane makes landfall.  A Coastal Flood Advisory is posted until Wednesday morning. Watch for minor coastal flooding along Blue Water Highway, Highway 87, Surfside and low-lying areas.

What are people doing?

Sunset off of the coast of Destin Beach was deceivingly beautiful Monday night as Michael churned hundreds of miles to the south. His sights were set on the Florida panhandle.

"We were supposed to stay until next Friday. But we're heading out in the morning, unfortunately,” said Matt Overby.

He and his family will head home after only two days vacationing.

"Forecast looked great two days ago. Now with a possible Category 2 hurricane coming in, it's not worth the risk to stay," Overby said.

There were long lines at gas stations as people filled up in order to get away from the coast. The long lines snaked around the pumps and spilled into the highway.

Danielle Leonard carried a gas tank to the pumps and bought gas in order to fill up her car.

"We're actually here on vacation. It's our fall break back home. So we just got here earlier this afternoon and there's a hurricane coming. So, we're going to wait it out," she said.

Bottom line

Although minimal impacts are expected for Southeast Texas there is a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico and it is important to watch the forecast closely. The KPRC2 severe weather team will keep you fully informed as the forecast changes.

This serves as a good reminder that hurricane season does not end until Nov. 30, and it’s always a good idea to be prepared for tropical weather.

Download the KPRC2 Hurricane Tracker app to get updates on the tropics anytime. You can also review our Hurricane and Flood Survival Guide for tips to help you prepare for hurricanes.

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