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Hurricane Michael: If you live in the Florida Panhandle, do this by the end of Tuesday

The National Hurricane Center on Tuesday warned that Hurricane Michael is likely to be a major hurricane as it nears the coast of Florida on Wednesday.

Michael, forecasters said, could be a Category 3 storm with winds in excess of 125 mph when it makes landfall.

>>What is the Saffir-Simpson scale, how does it work; is there a Category 6? 

Federal and state emergency management agencies are advising those living in coastal areas along the northern Florida Gulf coast to be aware and finish preparations for a probable landfall somewhere in those areas.

Here are some of the preparations you should complete as soon as possible if you live along the coast of Florida, and some information from a Ready.gov publication that includes a checklist of what to do in advance of the storm:

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Basic preparedness tips (Complete these Tuesday) 

1. Know where to go. If you are ordered to evacuate, know the local hurricane evacuation route(s) to take and have a plan for where you can stay. Contact your local emergency management agency for more information.

Florida: Click here for the Florida Emergency Management Department.

2. Put together a go-bag: disaster supply kit, including a flashlight, batteries, cash, first aid supplies, medications and copies of your critical information if you need to evacuate.

3. If you are not in an area that is advised to evacuate and you decide to stay in your home, plan for adequate supplies in case you lose power and water for several days and you are not able to leave due to flooding or blocked roads.

4. Make a family emergency communication plan.

5. Many communities have text or email alerting systems for emergency notifications. To find out what alerts are available in your area, search the Internet with your town, city or county name and the word “alerts.”

Preparing your home 

1. Hurricane winds will cause trees and branches to fall. If you can, trim or remove damaged trees and limbs to keep you and your property safe.

2. Secure loose rain gutters and downspouts and clear any clogged areas or debris to prevent water damage to your property. Clear your yard of unsecured items such as lawn chairs.

>>Why you should never use a generator during a storm 

3. Consider buying a portable generator. Generators can be deadly if used incorrectly. Remember to keep generators and other alternative power sources outside, at least 20 feet away from windows and doors and protected from moisture. That means you cannot use a generator during a storm.

What does 'hurricane warning' mean and what should I do if one is issued? 

A hurricane warning means hurricane conditions are expected within 36 hours.

Steps to take 

1. Follow evacuation orders from local officials, if given.

2. Check in with family and friends by texting or using social media.

3. Follow the hurricane timeline preparedness checklist below, depending on when the storm is anticipated to hit and the impact that is projected for your location.

What to do when a hurricane is 18-36 hours from arriving 

1. Bookmark your city or county website for quick access to storm updates and emergency instructions.

2. Bring loose, lightweight objects inside that could become projectiles in high winds (e.g., patio furniture, garbage cans); anchor objects that would be unsafe to bring inside (e.g., propane tanks) and trim or remove trees close enough to fall on the building.

3.  Cover all of your home’s windows. Permanent storm shutters offer the best protection for windows. A second option is to board up windows with 5/8-inch exterior grade or marine plywood, cut to fit and ready to install.

What to do when a hurricane is 6-18 hours from arriving 

1. Turn on your TV/radio or check your city/county website every 30 minutes in order to get the latest weather updates and emergency instructions.

2. Charge your cellphone now so you will have a full battery in case you lose power.

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What to do when a hurricane is 6 hours from arriving 

1. If you’re not in an area that is recommended for evacuation, plan to stay at home or where you are, and let friends and family know where you are. It is too late to safely evacuate. You run the risk of being caught in traffic on a roadway when the storm makes landfall.

2. Close storm shutters and stay away from windows. Flying glass from broken windows could injure you.

3. Turn on your TV/radio or check your city/county website every 30 minutes in order to get the latest weather updates and emergency instructions.

4. Turn your refrigerator or freezer to the coldest setting and open only when necessary. If you lose power, food will last longer. Keep a thermometer in the refrigerator to be able to check the food temperature when the power is restored.

>>How a coin, frozen cup of water could keep you from getting sick 

After the hurricane 

1. Listen to local officials for updates and instructions.

2. Check in with family and friends by texting or using social media.

3. Return home only when authorities indicate it is safe.

4. Watch out for debris and downed power lines.

5. Avoid walking or driving through flood waters. Just 6 inches of moving water can knock you down and 1 foot of fast-moving water can sweep your vehicle away.

6. Avoid floodwater, as it may be electrically charged from underground or downed power lines and may hide dangerous debris or places where the ground is washed away.

7. Photograph the damage to your property in order to assist in filing an insurance claim.

8. Do what you can to prevent further damage to your property, (e.g., putting a tarp on a damaged roof), as insurance may not cover additional damage that occurs after the storm. 

9. Never plug your generator directly into your home outlet. That’s known as “backfeeding” and puts people at risk of electrocution.

Rob Docko ties a knot while securing his boat at the St. Andrews Marina in Panama City, Fla., Monday, Oct. 8, 2018, to prepare for Hurricane Michael. (Patti Blake /News Herald via AP) (Patti Blake/AP)

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