Gov. Rick Scott warned Floridians and local governments to take serious precautions ahead of Tropical Storm Michael, which strengthened in the Caribbean early Sunday afternoon.
Scott, who announced he was declaring a state of emergency Sunday for 26 counties in the Florida Panhandle and Big Bend region, said that the storm will be slow, strong and will bring a dangerous storm surge.
“This storm will be life-threatening and extremely dangerous,” he said in a briefing Sunday evening.
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Scott added that he was activating 500 National Guard members ahead of the storm for planning, logistics and response.
Scott spoke earlier in the day with several local officials, including Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum who he clashed with publicly after Hermine hit Tallahassee in 2016 over the time it took to restore power to the area. Gillum, who is running as the Democratic nominee to succeed Scott as governor, has also been hammered in recent days by Republican ads criticizing Tallahassee’s recovery after Hermine.
During his briefing, Scott urged local governments to review their resources, supplies and mutual aid agreements for utility assistance, “so there is no delay in power restoration for all Floridians,” though he did not explicitly mention the capital city’s past performance.
Gillum’s office said earlier Sunday afternoon that he “reached out to Governor Scott with an update on the city’s efforts. The mayor and the governor were able to connect, and the lines of communication will remain open throughout the preparation and recovery process.”
The storm is expected to be a hurricane by Wednesday, when it is projected to affect the Florida Panhandle.
Scott said all local airport, school and government closures will be handled locally. He also called on local governments to do proper checks of generators, shelter plans and supply stocks.
Tropical storm warnings are already in effect for the Mexican coast from Tulum to Cabo Catoche, as well as Pinar Del Rio and the Isle of Youth in Cuba.
The outer bands of the storm are expected to dump 2 to 4 inches of rain in the Florida Keys, the Yucatan Peninsula, Belize and Northern Honduras. Parts of western Cuba could see up to 12 inches of rain, according to the National Weather Service.