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How hospitals in the South are preparing for Hurricane Michael

Hurricane Michael strengthened to a Category 4 storm just hours before it is expected to hit the Florida Panhandle Oct. 10, making it one of the strongest weather events to hit the U.S. in 2018, according to CNN.

CNN meteorologist Chad Myers said the "extremely dangerous" hurricane may produce storm surges up to 13 feet high and devastating winds across the Panhandle and southern Alabama and Georgia.

If the eye of the storm hits the coast with winds of up to 145 miles per hour — their maximum sustained speed as of Oct. 10 — the hurricane would produce damage similar to that of a strong tornado. However, "instead of lasting 30 seconds, it [would last] for one hour," Mr. Myers said. "There will be hundreds of thousands, if not millions, without power for a very long time."

Here are five things to know:

1. Florida Gov. Rick Scott issued mandatory or voluntary evacuation orders for at least 22 counties on the Florida Gulf Coast, CNN reports. He later extended the order to at least 35 counties. Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal declared a state of emergency in at least 92 counties across the state on Oct. 9, according to WSB-TV 2.

2. Storm surges and onshore flooding had already begun in parts of Florida as of about 7:30 a.m. Oct. 10.  If wind speeds within the eye of the storm reach 157 mph, the storm will be upgraded to a Category 5 event. CNN reports that from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. EST, Hurricane Michael's wind speeds increased 5 mph.

3. In an Oct. 9 update from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, officials said FEMA has activated its National Response Coordination Center in Washington, D.C., and its Regional Response Coordination Center in Atlanta in preparation for the storm, and has deployed incident management teams in both states.

4. Some hospitals in Florida stopped inpatient admissions and began evacuating patients Oct. 9, according to nwfdailynews.com. For more information on healthcare facility closures in the Panhandle, click here.

5. South Georgia Medical Center in Valdosta activated its emergency operations plan Oct. 9 in preparation for Hurricane Michael, WALB 10 News reports. Hospital officials said it has received additional shipments of fuel, food, medicine and supplies to carry operations through the first 96 hours after the storm's onset. Dothan, Ala.-based Flowers Hospital announced the closure of all of its outpatient departments and Flowers Medical Group offices Oct. 10, but expects to resume normal operations Oct. 11, according to WDHN News.

Editor's note: Information about hospital or healthcare facility closures is not exhaustive.

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