It's Not the Rain, It's the Winds to Watch as Michael Bears Down

(Bloomberg) -- Hurricane Florence, which hit the Carolinas in September, was all about water. As Michael approaches Florida, it promises to be more about wind.

Florence was a strong storm off the coast of North Carolina, but its winds were pulled apart by the time it made landfall. Instead, it brought water -- lots and lots of water. Storm surge near Wilmington, North Carolina, set records and more than 30 inches of rain fell in some areas as the slow-moving system stalled. It sent rivers over their banks, shut highways and stranded residents.

Michael isn’t packing the rain -- forecasts are currently for 4 to 8 inches in most areas because it’s moving much faster than Florence -- but its winds will dwarf last month’s storm. Currently clocked at 145 miles per hour, the winds will be capable of tearing the walls and roofs off of homes, snapping trees or simply tossing them in the air, touching off power outages that could last months in some cases, according to the National Hurricane Center.

At Category 4, Michael is the strongest storm ever to hit the Big Bend-Florida Panhandle region, and with a storm surge that could reach 14 feet, it’s possible many low lying areas and islands will be completely submerged.

The hurricane will follow that initial punch up with a quick spin across the South, holding onto at least tropical storm strength before it re-emerges into the Atlantic on Friday. It will cross many of the same places devastated by Florence, so it will certainly hurt or even damage recovery efforts there, said Brett Rathbun, a meteorologist with AccuWeather Inc. in State College, Pennsylvania.

There is also a chance Michael will touch off another round of river flooding across North Carolina and South Carolina as it leaves.

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