Hurricane Michael cranks up to a Category 2 storm

Hurricane Michael European model

The National Hurricane Center said the storm was moving north-northwestward through the southern Gulf of Mexico, and that storm surge and hurricane warnings were in effect for the northeastern Gulf coast.

Hurricane Michael is a storm with 90 miles per hour sustained winds, heading for a landfall on the Florida Panhandle Gulf Coast and it is expected to reach major hurricane status of Category 3 before it strikes the coast. The flood watch will be in effect from Wednesday evening into Thursday evening.

"It's definitely coming through an area that doesn't need more rain", Kimball said.

Our rain chance is 60 percent. A tropical storm watch was also issued for the eastern coasts of Georgia and SC. Winds will increase steadily through the day and could exceed 80 miles per hour.

The good news, however, is that cooler, drier weather is in store.

The hurricane, now off Cuba's western tip, is expected to make landfall on the Florida panhandle and affect portions of southern Alabama.

"We expect less rain to fall when compared to Florence", said AccuWeather senior meteorologist Dan Kottlowski. Following Hurricane Irma a year ago, 14 people died when a South Florida nursing home lost power and air conditioning.

Scott also told Florida hospitals and nursing homes to do all they can to assure the safety of the elderly and infirm.

"For everyone thinking they can ride this storm out, I have news for you: that will be one of the biggest mistakes you can make in your life". By 8 a.m. Tuesday, top winds had reached 100 miles per hour (155 kph), and it was forecast to strengthen into a "major" hurricane, with winds topping 111 miles per hour (179 kph).

That's when Maryland could see the first remnants of the storm.

Governor Rick Scott´s office said mandatory evacuation orders were in place for parts of Bay County, which includes the popular Panama City beach resort, and areas in nearby Gulf and Franklin counties.

The sheriff's office says Wakulla County shelters were rated safe only for hurricanes below that threshold. With Michael's winds projected to be even stronger, residents were urged to evacuate inland.

FEMA administrator Brock Long said the agency was prepared for the storm in all the states likely to feel Michael's impact.

High winds weren't the only danger.

The storm is about 270 miles south-southwest of Apalachicola, Florida, and moving north at 12 mph.

Widespread power outages, wind damage and debris produced by high winds and heavy rain are possible.

Hurricane Michael was expected to strengthen on Tuesday in the Gulf of Mexico, taking aim at the Florida panhandle, where residents were implored to get out of harm's way ahead of life-threatening waves, winds and rains. Michael was lashing western Cuba on Monday with heavy rains and strong winds.

On its current track, Michael will move across the eastern Gulf of Mexico throughout Tuesday and then move inland over the Panhandle or Big Bend area of Florida on Wednesday, according to the hurricane center. The county has opened two sandbag locations for residents. A couple breweries in the city offered free filtered water to anyone bringing in jugs or other containers.

Scott has already declared a state of emergency in 35 counties, and the Florida National Guard has activated 1,250 troops for planning, logistics and emergency response.

He said, "There's nothing between us and this storm but warm water and I think that's what terrifies us about the potential impacts". Trees and utility lines will start to come down, which will lead to power outages.

"There's nothing between us and this storm but warm water", he said.

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