Michael strengthens to Category 2 hurricane; expected to intensify

'Running out of time': Florida braces for dangerous floods as Hurricane Michael strengthens

'Running out of time': Florida braces for dangerous floods as Hurricane Michael strengthens

Conditions in the "very warm" Gulf of Mexico were expected to support continued strengthening, allowing Michael to become a major hurricane before it reaches the northern coast of the Gulf on Wednesday.

Particularly important are the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites, or GOES, which are jointly run by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA. The Category 1 storm was moving north-northwest at 12 miles per hour.

"Damaging winds will also extend inland across portions of the Florida Panhandle, southern Georgia, and southeast Alabama as Michael moves inland", the hurricane center cautioned.

On its current track, it would make landfall somewhere along a coastline that includes the cities and towns of Fort Walton Beach, Panama City Beach, Port St. Joe, St. Teresa and the wildlife reserves bordering Apalachee Bay. "Persons located within these areas should take all necessary actions to protect life and property from rising water and the potential for other risky conditions", the hurricane center said. "Don't take a chance", he said.

The hurricane, now off Cuba's western tip, is expected to make landfall on the Florida panhandle and affect portions of southern Alabama. Storm surge rises rapidly Wednesday morning and afternoon.

A life-threatening storm surge has been predicted along Florida's Gulf Coast, along with risky winds and heavy rainfall.

A map shows at-risk areas in Florida ahead of Hurricane Michael.

Interests along the northeastern and central Gulf Coast areas are advised to monitor the progress of Tropical Storm Michael.

A hurricane warning is in effect for Florida cities including Tallahassee, Panama City, Apalachicola and Pensacola.

Forecasters said parts of Florida's marshy, lightly populated Big Bend area - the crook of Florida's elbow - could see up to 12 feet (3.7 meters) of storm surge.




Scott declared a state of emergency for 35 counties, activating 1,250 National Guard troops in preparation for the storm.

The speed of the storm barreling toward the Florida Panhandle - Michael was moving north-northwest at 12 miles per hour (19 kph) - was among the hazards worrying forecasters at the National Hurricane Center on Tuesday morning.

A hurricane warning has been issued for the Alabama-Florida border to the Suwannee River, and a hurricane watch is in effect from the Alabama-Florida border to the Mississippi-Alabama border.

"It looks like what we are planning for Wednesday is tropical storm-force winds of 39 to 57 miles per hour", said Jonathan Lord, Flagler County's emergency services chief. It developed into a hurricane Monday. Heavy rain, storm surge, and downed trees and power lines are also expected along Florida's western coast.

Mandatory evacuations have been issued in much of the Florida Panhandle and Big Bend areas.

State Emergency Management Director Wes Maul, in talking to his staff a few minutes after Scott's news conference, expressed concern that county shelters have had to quickly set up because Michael formed in a short period of time over the weekend. He said Tuesday that he doesn't expect he'll get resupplied soon, because stations nearer to interstate highways will get priority.

"Hurricane Michael is a massive storm that could bring total devastation to parts of our state, especially in the Panhandle", Scott said.

Michael also wreaked havoc in the Caribbean. With Michael's winds projected to be even stronger, residents were urged to evacuate inland.

Hurricane-force winds and strong rain were being felt in Cuba.

The sheriff's office says Michael "has the potential to be a historic storm - please take heed".

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