Hurricane Michael to strengthen as it targets Gulf Coast

NOAA: Hurricane Michael 2018 Projected Path, Spaghetti Models

NOAA: Hurricane Michael 2018 Projected Path, Spaghetti Models

The Category 1 hurricane, as of 5 p.m. EDT Monday, is forecast to possibly strengthen to a Category 3 with maximum sustained winds topping 111 miles per hour near its center of rotation before reaching the Gulf Coast on Wednesday morning at Panama City Beach, Fla.

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

Residents of Florida's Panhandle frantically filled sandbags, boarded up homes and secured boats Monday as they anxiously awaited Hurricane Michael, which forecasters warned could smash into the state's Gulf Coast as a unsafe major hurricane within days.

Florida State University said its campuses in Tallahassee and Panama City will be closed from Tuesday through Friday.

Michael was classified as a Category 1 hurricane as of 10 a.m. Cayman time on Monday, when its maximum sustained winds were measured at 75 miles per hour.

Hurricane Michael is expected to strengthen rapidly over the next 24 to 36 hours and will be "a unsafe major hurricane when it reaches the northeastern Gulf Coast on Wednesday", the National Hurricane Center says.

As of 5 a.m. ET Monday, Tropical Storm Michael was centered about 90 miles east of Cozumel, Mexico, the National Hurricane Center said.

The storm is on track to become a hurricane on Monday, bringing heavy rain to the western tip of Cuba, before making landfall on the northeastern Gulf Coast on Wednesday. Scott also said Monday afternoon that state health officials are reaching out to hospitals and nursing homes to be prepared.

It is tough, Leaphart said, given road "teams haven't had a chance to rest and catch our breath from the last one". "Do not risk your life, leave NOW if you were told to do so", the NWS in Tallahassee, Florida, tweeted Wednesday morning. Depending on the track of Michael's remnants, southern New England could also see a period of heavy rain late Thursday. Storm surge could reach heights of 6 to 9 feet from the Okaloosa-Walton County line to Mexico Beach and from Keaton Beach to Cedar Key.

Asked the likelihood of Hurricane Michael impacting Cayman, Mr. Powery said, "That's the $10 million question".

Carpenter said conditions could "start deteriorating" in Beaufort County late Tuesday at the earliest, but effects would be more likely Wednesday or Thursday.

"The FL panhandle needs to be prepared for a direct hit with sustained hurricane force winds", Scott wrote on Twitter on Monday.

Past year saw a string of catastrophic storms batter the western Atlantic - including Irma, Maria and Hurricane Harvey - causing a record-equalling $125bn in damage when it flooded the Houston metropolitan area. Forecasters warned that the storm could produce up to a foot (30cm) of rain in western Cuba, potentially triggering flash floods and mudslides in mountainous areas. A Category 1 hurricane has sustained winds of 74 to 95 miles per hour. Tropical storm warnings cover 8.5 million people in several states.

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey issued a state of emergency order Monday after concerns of severe weather and possible damages were raised. He added, "Today it is about life and safety".

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