Hurricane Michael nears Alabama, Georgia

NOAA: Hurricane Michael 2018 Projected Path, Spaghetti Models

NOAA: Hurricane Michael 2018 Projected Path, Spaghetti Models

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.

Michael's large size, strong winds and heavy rains could produce hazardous flooding along a stretch of Florida's Gulf coast, with many rivers and estuaries where sea water pushed ashore by a hurricane could get trapped, said hurricane centre director Ken Graham.

Florida State University in Tallahassee announced it was shutting down its campus after midnight on Monday, and will remain closed for the rest of the week.

Given the warm, open Gulf water and relatively low influence of wind shear on the system, the NHC is warning that Michael will become a category four storm by the time it makes landfall on the Florida Panhandle on Wednesday.

The Florida Highway Patrol is pre-deploying 100 State Troopers to the Panhandle and Big Bend area of Florida in preparation for Hurricane Michael.

After striking Florida, Michael is forecast to move up the east coast on Wednesday and Thursday, plowing through the Carolinas, still recovering from Hurricane Florence last month. Michael became a hurricane early Monday, forecasters said, crossing a critical threshold as it churned by the western tip of Cuba.

The hurricane is expected to be the most powerful storm to strike the southern USA state's panhandle in at least a decade.

Past year saw a string of catastrophic storms batter the western Atlantic - including Irma, Maria and Hurricane Harvey - causing a record-equaling $125 billion in damage when it flooded the Houston metropolitan area. Add Hurricane Michael as an interest to stay up to date on the latest Hurricane Michael news, video, and analysis from ABC News.

"The impact will be storm surge, very heavy rain and strong, gusty winds as it makes landfall", Bridges said.

"If this storm hits Panama City, Tampa could still have storm surge", Scott said.

Michael, which increased to a Category 1 hurricane midday Monday, will rapidly intensify over the next 24 to 36 hours, Orrock said.

"Alabama is once again in the path of a hurricane, but I know Alabamians will once again come together and be prepared for whatever Michael may bring", Ivey stated.

The eye of the storm was 30 miles west of Bainbridge, Ga., and 70 miles southwest of Albany, Ga., as of the NHC's 4 p.m. CDT update.

"This is your last chance to evacuate before conditions start deteriorating within the next few hours", Scott wrote. He specifically pointed to forecasts of 8-12 feet of storm surge that could reach miles in from shore. The areas from Chassahowitzka to Anna Maria Island and between the Alabama-Florida border and the Okaloosa-Walton county line could see 2 feet to 4 feet of storm surge.

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