Waves take over a house as Hurricane Michael comes ashore in Alligator Point, Florida, U.S., October 10, 2018. .
(photo credit: CARLO ALLEGRI/REUTERS)
WASHINGTON – An historically powerful hurricane slammed into the panhandle of Florida on Wednesday, bringing with it a deadly storm surge and sustained winds blowing more than 250 km. per hour.
Hurricane Michael intensified rapidly over the course of five days, catching residents and local officials off guard as it grew into a Category 4 storm – the strongest cyclone to hit this territory ever recorded.
Michael took out power for millions and made landfall between Mexico Beach and Apalachicola, a shrimpers and oyster harvesters port, with winds just two miles per hour short of a Category 5 hurricane, the fiercest class.
The track of the storm circumvented the southern part of Florida, sparing its massive Jewish community
concentrated in Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties. The panhandle region is home to some 5,000 Jewish residents.
“We have been in touch with people we know in the community to make sure everyone is safe, and so that we can check in with them after the storm,” said Rabbi Mendel Danow of Pensacola, according to news release from Chabad Lubavitch. “Part of our work here will be with students at the University of West Florida, a growing university with more and more Jewish students. We have already gotten to know some of them, so we called to make sure they have a safe place to stay during the storm.”
Residents there issued a mandatory evacuation order and had three days notice to leave the region, with National Hurricane Center officials warning locals to dispel themselves of the belief that Michael was the type of storm they could ride out.
With Florida’s Panhandle girded by an extensive continental shelf along its Gulf of Mexico coast, Michael swept up shallow waters with nowhere to escape but landward, building a storm surge up of four meters high. State officials fear the Pensacola area, as one of the state’s poorest regions, may not have the structural preparedness for a storm of this strength, although several expressed confidence that Florida building codes were sufficiently reformed after Hurricane Andrew, a Category 5 storm, devastated the region in 1992.
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The last major storm to hit the panhandle was Hurricane Dennis, a Category 3 storm, in 2005.
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