Florida Keys ordered evacuated as Michelle nears

Associated Press

KEY WEST, Fla. — The Florida Keys were ordered evacuated today as meteorologists warned that the chain of islands likely would be brushed by Hurricane Michelle. Rain spread into the state as the heart of the storm closed in on western Cuba.

Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center in Miami issued a hurricane warning for all of the Florida Keys, projecting that hurricane-force wind — 75 mph or more — could reach the area today or Monday. Heavy surf and wind up to 51 mph already were pounding the area this afternoon.

Monroe County officials ordered a mandatory evacuation for all of the Florida Keys on Sunday, one day after Gov. Jeb Bush declared a state of emergency.

"It appears that the storm has veered to the east, thankfully," Bush said today. But, "It’s still a very powerful storm … clearly there’s going to be some impact."

A 3-foot storm surge — a wave-topped swell of ocean water that could flood a large area — was expected to affect the Atlantic shores of the Keys, hurricane specialist Lixion Avila said.

Bands of rain already were spreading across the Florida Straits, which separates Cuba from Florida, and into the southern part of the state by early afternoon.

The chain of some 40 islands, stretching 128 miles, has a little more than 80,000 permanent residents, plus visitors. The keys are connected by highway bridges, but only two spans connect the first island, Key Largo, to the mainland.

By midday, traffic heading out of the Keys was only moderate, and there was still some light southbound traffic, said Highway Patrol Lt. Ernesto Duarte. "We don’t have any problems at all," he said.

No order had been given yet to shift all the lanes on the two bridges to the mainland to northbound traffic, Duarte said.

Michelle had top sustained wind of 135 mph today, but it was expected to weaken before reaching Florida and was not expected to strike the state directly. It had probably peaked in intensity, because a weather system coming across the Gulf of Mexico was producing disruptive air currents, Stewart said.

However, forecasters warned that if the storm deviated from its northeasterly track taking it in the direction of the Bahamas and turned toward the north, the Keys and South Florida could be hit.

"We will start to see our winds increase and we’ll probably see rainfall continue throughout the weekend and even into Monday," said meteorologist Krissy Williams.

A hurricane warning was in effect for western Cuba. The storm was projected to hit Cuba’s southwestern coast near the Bay of Pigs and cross the main island on a course east of Havana. The capital is home to 2 million of Cuba’s 11 million people.

The Bahamian government issued a hurricane warning for the northwestern and central islands. Michelle was expected to be near the central Bahamas by Monday, forecasters said.

The storm surged toward the northeast at nearly 13 mph today, up from about the speed of 3 mph it followed most of Saturday.

In addition to the hurricane warning for South Florida, a tropical storm warning was in effect along Florida’s Atlantic Coast north to Jupiter Inlet and along the Gulf Coast north to Bonita Beach, the hurricane center said.

Copyright ©2001 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

People look out onto Mountain Loop Mine from the second floor hallway of Fairmount Elementary on Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Mining company ordered to stop work next to school south of Everett

After operating months without the right paperwork, OMA Construction applied for permits last week. The county found it still violates code.

Snohomish County Jail. (Sue Misao / Herald file)
Arlington woman arrested in 2005 case of killed baby in Arizona airport

Annie Sue Anderson, 51, has been held in the Snohomish County Jail since December. She’s facing extradition.

A Cessna 150 crashed north of Paine Field on Friday evening, Feb. 16, 2024, in Mukilteo, Washington. The pilot survived without serious injury. (Courtesy of Richard Newman.)
‘I’m stuck in the trees’: 911 call recounts plane crash near Paine Field

Asad Ali was coming in for a landing in a Cessna 150 when he crashed into woods south of Mukilteo. Then he called 911 — for 48 minutes.

Snohomish County likely to feel more like winter, beginning Monday

Get ready for a mix of rain and snow this week, along with cooler temperatures.

The Nimbus Apartments are pictured on Wednesday, March 1, 2023, in downtown Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Snohomish County has the highest rent in the state. Could this bill help?

In one year, rent for the average two-bedroom apartment in Snohomish County went up 20%. A bill seeks to cap any increases at 7%.

A Snohomish County no trespassing sign hangs on a fence surrounding the Days Inn on Monday, Feb. 12, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Meth cleanup at Edmonds motel-shelter made matters worse, report says

Contamination has persisted at two motels Snohomish County bought to turn into shelters in 2022. In January, the county cut ties with two cleanup agencies.

A child gets some assistance dancing during Narrow Tarot’s set on the opening night of Fisherman’s Village on Thursday, May 18, 2023, at Lucky Dime in downtown Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Drive-By Truckers, Allen Stone headline 2024 Fisherman’s Village lineup

Big names and local legends alike are coming to downtown Everett for the music festival from May 16 to 18.

Sen. Patty Murray attends a meeting at the Everett Fire Department’s Station 1 on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Sen. Murray seeks aid for Snohomish County’s fentanyl, child care crises

The U.S. senator visited Everett to talk with local leaders on Thursday, making stops at the YMCA and a roundtable with the mayor.

Anthony Boggess
Arlington man sentenced for killing roommate who offered shelter

Anthony Boggess, 33, reported hearing the voices of “demons” the night he strangled James Thrower, 65.

Brenda Mann Harrison
Taking care of local news is best done together

The Herald’s journalism development director offers parting thoughts.

Lake Serene in Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. (U.S. Forest Service)
How will climate change affect you? New tool gives an educated guess

The Climate Vulnerability Tool outlines climate hazards in Snohomish County — and it may help direct resources.

Ken Florczak, president of the five-member board at Sherwood Village Mobile Home community on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024 in Mill Creek, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
How Mill Creek mobile home residents bought the land under their feet

At Sherwood Village, residents are now homeowners. They pay a bit more each month to keep developers from buying their property.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.