Gov. Rick Scott is warning all Floridians to get ready as Hurricane Michael approaches and has declared a state of emergency in several counties, including most in the Tampa Bay area.
Scott initially ordered the state of emergency on Sunday and included just the Florida Panhandle and Big Bend area counties. On Monday, he updated to include 35 counties total.
Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Citrus, Hernando and Manatee counties are all under the state of emergency.
“Like I said last night, if the storm hits in Panama City, Tampa will see life-threatening storm surge. You cannot hide from storm surge, so get out if an evacuation is ordered,” the governor said Monday during a press conference in Bay County.
The governor went on to say that he’s concerned about that surge along with strong winds and heavy rain.
“We all saw the damage Hermine did to the neighborhoods in its path just two years ago and Tropical Storm Michael is forecast to have similar impacts,” he said Sunday.
Hurricane Hermine came ashore in an area of the Florida Panhandle in Sept. 2016 as a Category 1 and caused significant damage. The latest National Hurricane Center forecast has Michael hitting the Panhandle area as a major Category 3 hurricane.
“We know storms like Michael can be absolutely devastating and life-threatening. That’s why we all have to take this seriously,” Scott said.
The governor activated 500 National Guard troops and said 5,000 more are on standby.
The state emergency operations center was switched to a level 1 Monday morning, Scott said. That means agencies will begin to work hand-and-hand as Michael heads toward Florida.
FEMA has dispatched a crew to Florida, Scott said.
The Tampa Bay area is included in a Tropical Storm Watch and a Storm Surge Watch issued by the National Hurricane Center Monday morning.