How to prepare for a hurricane and other key things to know

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<pHurricane Michael is moving quickly toward the Florida panhandle and parts of the Gulf Coast, with winds of 145 mph. Swells and storm surge generated by Michael could bring life threatening conditions to the areas in its path and residents have been told to evacuate.

Interested in Hurricanes?

Add Hurricanes as an interest to stay up to date on the latest Hurricanes news, video, and analysis from ABC News.HurricanesAdd Interest<pThe Category 4 hurricane packs an intensity the Florida panhandle has never seen before.

<pHere are some of your questions on hurricanes, answered by ABC News meteorologists Max Golembo, Samantha Wnek and Melissa Griffin.

<pHow are hurricanes formed?

<pHurricanes are formed by feeding off the warmth and moisture of the ocean. Air then rises and is replaced constantly by the surrounding air. Below all this rising air, low pressure develops.

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<pHow long does a hurricane usually last?

<pIf you are in the hurricane, conditions could last 12 to 18 hours. In a slow-moving hurricane, up to 24 hours.

<pThe hurricane itself, from formation to its deterioration, can last in the ocean for weeks.

<pHow long do hurricanes take to form?

<pIt can take up to a week for hurricanes to form and some tropical cyclones never make it to hurricane status.

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(MORE: Hurricane Michael to bring dangerous storm surge: What you need to know)<p

<pOne of the fastest ones formed was Humberto in 2007, which developed in less than 19 hours from a tropical depression to a hurricane.

<pHow do you know when a hurricane is coming?

<pIf you're relying on the weather to know when a hurricane is coming, often you won't get any indication at all. The day before a hurricane could have sunny skies with calm winds.

<pThat’s why you should listen to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather radio or pay attention to warnings by authorities.

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<pHow many hurricanes will there be in 2018?

<pAccording to an August update from NOAA’s National Hurricane Center, four to seven hurricanes are expected this season, which started on June 1 and ends Nov. 30. On average, six hurricanes form in the Atlantic every year.

<pThat said, Michael officially became the seventh named hurricane of the Atlantic hurricane season.

<pThe prior six were Alberto, which formed before the official start of the season, then Beryl and Chris. Florence was the fourth named hurricane and first major hurricane of the year, followed by Joyce and Leslie.

<pMichael is now the second major hurricane of the season.

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What is a storm surge and why is it so dangerous?

<pAs pressure falls in the hurricane's center, water levels rise. The water accumulates while the storm is still over the open ocean.

<pWhen the hurricane closes in on land, its strong winds push that water toward the coast and up onto land, creating walls of water sometimes as high as 20 feet.

<pThe danger to people inside houses on the coast is the vicious deluge of water that can flood homes and climb up walls rapidly. When Hurricane Sandy hit New York and New Jersey in 2012, many homes filled quickly with water.

<pThe risks can be even greater if storm surge combines with high tide, creating a devastating, rapid rise in water levels.