Hurricane Michael Update October 10 2018: Flights Canceled; More Travel Waivers Issued by Airlines in More Areas; and What to Know

In what is being called a “historic” event, the landfall of Hurricane Michael as a powerful Category 4 hurricane at or near Panama City in Florida is inevitable within the next several hours today, Wednesday, October 10, 2018 — and this area of the United States has never experienced such an intense storm so close to the coast in recorded history, which can be potentially catastrophic for a number of reasons.

Hurricane Michael Update October 10 2018: Flights Canceled; More Travel Waivers Issued by Airlines in More Areas; and What to Know

Hurricane Michael

Source: National Hurricane Center of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the United States.

This storm has widespread implications with a number of concerns — and one of the only positive aspects is that the speed of its forward movement will prevent further of what is expected to be devastating damage in many areas.

Mandatory evacuations have already occurred in many areas along the northern Gulf Coast of the Florida Panhandle — and then there is this dire warning from the Twitter account of the Weather Forecast Office of the National Weather Service in Tallahassee:

“If you live along the coast and were told to evacuate…this is YOUR LAST CHANCE. Hurricane Michael is an unprecedented event and cannot be compared to any of our previous events. Do not risk your life, leave NOW if you were told to do so.”

Troops of the National Guard have already been activated for duty.

Storm Information

Maximum sustained winds of this storm — which is currently centered approximately 50 miles south southwest of Panama City and is moving north northeast at approximately 14 miles per hour — are 145 miles per hour, with gusts of up to 175 miles per hour. This storm has strengthened to a powerful Category 4 hurricane prior to landfall later today, as Hurricane Michael is a classic symmetrical storm with a well-defined eye over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

The barometric pressure within the eye continues to drop — it is currently measured at 923 millibars — meaning that the storm is still be strengthening. If the sustained winds of Hurricane Michael speed up only another 12 miles per hour, it would be officially categorized as a Category 5 hurricane, which is the strongest classification of the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. Although that is not officially forecast to happen, it is a possibility. Early reports at the time this article was written indicate that sustained winds have approached 150 miles per hour.

The northern Gulf Coast of the United States is currently inundated with torrential precipitation and gusty winds by the outer bands of this system from extreme southeastern Mississippi all the way to what is known as the Big Bend area of Florida.

Additionally, the east coast of the United States — from western Florida to Atlanta to southern New Jersey — will feel the effects of this storm in the form of torrential precipitation, gusty winds, strong rip currents, beach erosion, dangerous surf, and isolated tornadoes.

Watches, Warnings and States of Emergency

A hurricane warning is posted for the coast of Florida from the border it shares with Alabama to Suwanee River. This includes the cities of Pensacola, Fort Walton Beach, Panama City, Destin and Tallahassee. What is unusual is that the hurricane warning also extends inland to the entire panhandle of Florida — which includes Tallahassee — and southwestern Georgia, which includes Bainbridge and as far north as Albany.

Tropical storm warnings are in effect for the entire coast of Alabama; from Suwannee River southward to Chassahowitzka; and from Fernandina Beach in Florida to Surf City in North Carolina. The tropical storm warning also extends inland to a wide area of portions of five states — which includes the cities of Mobile, Macon, Wilmington, Charleston, Columbia, Valdosta and Augusta.

Tropical storm watches have been posted from Chassahowitzka to Anna Maria Island in Florida — which includes the greater Tampa Bay metropolitan area; in Mississippi from the border it shares with Alabama westward to the mouth of the Pearl River; and also along the southeast coast from South Santee River in South Carolina to Duck in North Carolina, which includes Pamlico and Albemarle sounds. They have also been issued inland for Greenville and Spartanburg in South Carolina, which is the first time these areas have ever been issued these types of tropical weather alerts.

States of emergency have been declared in portions of Florida, Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina and North Carolina.

Wind Damage

An extreme wind warning has been issued by the National Weather Service in Tallahassee — meaning that winds of 130 miles per hour are expected in the area where landfall of this storm is expected to occur.

Damage is expected to be considered catastrophic within 50 miles of the coast where landfall of the eye of Hurricane Michael occurs. Some areas will simply be wiped out altogether.

Outside of this area, expect broken windows and flying debris from objects which had not been properly secured. Winds of up to 60 miles per hour can occur as far north as extreme southern Delaware; and wind gusts are already currently up to 68 miles per hour in Apalachicola.

Additionally, at least one million people from Florida to North Carolina will lose electrical power as a result of the strong winds due to power lines being snapped by either the wind itself or by fallen trees. Substantial damage to trees is expected in many areas near the path of the eye of this storm.

Several thousand power outages and wind gusts of tropical storm strength have already been reported in portions of northwestern Florida.

Storm Surge

Apalachicola is one of many of the coastal areas in Florida which is already experiencing a storm surge as a result of this storm. The storm surge in some areas can reach as high as 20 feet, which will be devastating in flat low lying areas.

A storm surge warning is in effect from the border of Okaloosa and Walton Counties in Florida to Anclote River; and storm surge watches are in effect from Anclote River to Anna Maria Island in Florida, which includes the greater Tampa Bay metropolitan area.

Additionally, a storm surge of up to three feet is forecast along the east coast of the United States from just north of Brunswick in Georgia northward to Kill Devil Hills on the outer banks of North Carolina. This is because of the counterclockwise circulation of the storm, which will be strong enough to scoop water back towards the coast while it is still over land.

Significant Flooding

Although of obvious concern is the flooding which will result along many areas of the Gulf Coast of the United States east of Mobile — as much as 12 inches of rain could fall in some areas — the coasts of North Carolina and South Carolina will be significantly affected because they are still experiencing the effects of Hurricane Florence and likely will not be able to withstand the effects of what may still be Tropical Storm Michael when it arrives on Friday morning, October 12, 2018.

In addition to all of South Carolina, virtually all of North Carolina, most of Georgia, the southern half of Virginia, and the southern portion of the DelMarVa peninsula can expect the potential of significant flooding — including flash floods in local areas; and especially near streams and rivers which could overflow their banks.

Flight Waivers, Delays and Cancellations

If you are traveling to the Gulf Coast of the United States over the next few days, expect delays and cancellations of flights. Keep up to date on the latest information pertaining to this tropical weather system which may adversely affect your travel plans. Better yet, postponing or canceling your trip might be a better option — no matter which mode of travel you plan on taking.

If you have a flight scheduled, your flight may be delayed or canceled — and you may be eligible for a waiver of a fee to change your itinerary. If you are driving in any of these areas, watch out for deteriorating weather conditions and traffic problems.

Here are nine airlines which have issued travel alerts — or are at least monitoring the storm — as a result of this tropical weather system:

  • American Airlines has issued travel alerts for 12 airports in four states for Tuesday, October 9, 2018 through Thursday, October 11, 2018; and Sunday, October 14, 2018 is the last day on which tickets must be reissued and rebooked travel must begin.
  • Delta Air Lines has issued travel alerts for nine airports in three states for Tuesday, October 9, 2018 through Thursday, October 11, 2018; and Sunday, October 14, 2018 is the last day on which tickets must be reissued and rebooked travel must begin.
  • United Airlines has issued travel alerts for 10 airports in four states for Tuesday, October 9, 2018 through Thursday, October 11, 2018; and Thursday, October 18, 2018 is the last day on which tickets must be reissued and rebooked travel must begin.
  • Southwest Airlines has issued travel alerts for:
    • Tampa for Monday, October 8, 2018 through Wednesday, October 10, 2018; and Wednesday, October 24, 2018 is the last day on which tickets must be reissued and rebooked travel must begin.
    • Atlanta for Monday, October 8, 2018 through Friday, October 12, 2018; and Friday, October 26, 2018 is the last day on which tickets must be reissued and rebooked travel must begin.
    • New Orleans for Tuesday, October 9, 2018 through Thursday, October 11, 2018; and Thursday, October 25, 2018 is the last day on which tickets must be reissued and rebooked travel must begin.
    • Charleston, Jacksonville, Norfolk, Panama City, Pensacola and Raleigh-Durham for Tuesday, October 9, 2018 through Sunday, October 14, 2018; and Sunday, October 28, 2018 is the last day on which tickets must be reissued and rebooked travel must begin.
  • JetBlue Airways has issued travel alerts for:
    • Tampa for Wednesday, October 10, 2018; and Tuesday, October 16, 2018 is the last day on which tickets must be reissued and rebooked travel must begin.
    • Atlanta, Charleston, Jacksonville and Savannah for Thursday, October 11, 2018 through Friday, October 12, 2018; and Tuesday, October 16, 2018 is the last day on which tickets must be reissued and rebooked travel must begin.
  • Frontier Airlines has issued travel alerts for Pensacola, Atlanta, Birmingham and Tampa for Tuesday, October 9, 2018 through Thursday, October 11, 2018; and Wednesday, October 31, 2018 is the last day on which tickets must be reissued and rebooked travel must begin.
  • Allegiant Air has issued travel alerts for Destin, Gulfport, Jacksonville, Myrtle Beach, New Orleans and Savannah for Tuesday, October 9, 2018 through Friday, October 12, 2018.
  • Air Canada has issued travel alerts for:
    • Tampa for Wednesday, October 10, 2018.
    • Atlanta, Charlotte, Jacksonville, Orlando, Raleigh-Durham and Savannah for Wednesday, October 10, 2018 through Thursday, October 11, 2018.
  • KLM Royal Dutch Airways has issued travel alerts for nine airports in three states for Tuesday, October 9, 2018 through Thursday, October 11, 2018; and Sunday, October 14, 2018 is the last day on which tickets must be reissued and rebooked travel must begin.

Summary

Please take this storm seriously if you happen to be in the affected areas — and avoid travel to and from these areas as well.

Expect more travel alerts to be issued by more airlines for more areas of the United States — particularly as the storm moves inland and affects North Carolina and South Carolina.

I am not a professional meteorologist; but I am more than happy to answer your weather questions, if you have any. Please post your question in the Comments section below and I will do what I can to answer it.

Be sure to contact your airline or transportation provider for the latest information pertaining to your travels — if they are adversely affected — and please: travel safely.

Source: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the Department of Commerce of the United States.

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