As Gulf Coast Floridians brace themselves for their worst-ever hurricane strike, residents of Hampton Roads and northeastern North Carolina are preparing for tropical storm-force winds and heavy rains when Hurricane Michael exits the East Coast overnight Thursday.
At 10:30 a.m., Gov. Roy Cooper declared a state of emergency for North Carolina, with portions of the coast from Surf City to Duck now under a tropical storm warning.
Michael overnight grew into an impressive Category 4 storm that is expected to ravage the Florida Panhandle and portions of the state's west coast later today. As of the National Hurricane Center's noon advisory, Michael was making landfall between St. Vincent Island and Panama City with sustained winds of 150 mph winds and a movement to the north-northeast at 14 mph.
This is the 13th named storm and seventh hurricane of the season. It is projected to work its way through the southeast sometime Thursday evening and exit the coast to the south of Hampton Roads.
Forecasters at the National Weather Service in Wakefield said that the worst rains will be to the storm's north. Three to 6 inches are expected for the Hampton Roads region, with some localized higher amounts. Wind gusts up to 45 mph are expected.
Rain and wind should start to pick up in the area Thursday afternoon, with the height of what will then be Tropical Storm Michael passing by overnight or early Friday, making the morning commute a potential mess.
The good news is that Michael is supposed to speed up as it approaches the region, as the storm gets caught up in an approaching cold front.
A tropical storm warning is in effect for the North Carolina coast from Surf City to Duck, including the Pamlico and Albemarle sounds. Watches are expected for South Hampton Roads sometime today.
In Florida, forecasters are predicting devastating storm surges up to 13 feet, and life-threatening winds, according to the hurricane center.
The storm will affect a large portion of the southeast over the next few days. Hurricane-force winds extend 45 miles from Michael's eye, and tropical storm-force winds range out to nearly 200 miles from the center.
Elsewhere in the tropics, Tropical Storm Nadine has become the season's 14th named storm of the season. The cyclone has winds of 50 mph and is located off the coast of West Africa, moving to the north-northwest at 6 mph.
Leslie regained hurricane status late Tuesday night. The storm was packing 75 mph winds and was moving to the south at 9 mph in the eastern Atlantic.