Watches issued for Gulf Coast as Michael strengthens into hurricane

Watches issued for Gulf Coast as Michael strengthens into hurricane

Watches issued for Gulf Coast as Michael strengthens into hurricane

Landfall is expected some time on Wednesday near Apalachicola and, by that time, Michael is forecast to strengthen to a Category 3 (or major) hurricane.

Florida's Gov. Rick Scott issued a state of emergency late Sunday in advance of Hurricane Michael for the counties in the Florida Panhandle and Big Bend region. "This storm will be life-threatening and extremely unsafe".

The U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) said Hurricane Michael is a Category 1 storm and is still moving northward and will hit the northwestern coast of Florida.

Hurricane watches are already in place for parts of the panhandle, and tropical storm watches are in place for parts of south Georgia just outside our viewing area.

The chances of tropical storm winds are low but it is possible that strong gusts Tuesday night into Wednesday might reach tropical storm force.

The governor declared a state of emergency for Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, Walton, Holmes, Washington, Bay, Jackson, Calhoun, Gulf, Gadsden, Liberty, Franklin, Leon, Wakulla, Jefferson, Madison, Taylor, Hamilton, Suwannee, Lafayette, Dixie, Columbia, Gilchrist, Levy and Citrus counties. The center of the storm is forecast to make landfall somewhere between Pensacola and the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge.

"If you are electricity dependent, we would encourage you to make some decisions around where you want to ride out this storm", said Gillum.

According to the hurricane center, Michael's top sustained winds were around 75 miles per hour (120 kph). A Storm Surge Watch has been issued from Navarre to Anna Maria Island, including Tampa Bay. Tropical storm winds extended out 170 miles (275 kilometers), primarily to the northeast and southeast of the storm's center. The below graphic shows the storm's projected path, which could also dump large amounts of rain throughout the Carolinas, which are still recovering from Hurricane Florence.

The National Hurricane Center upgraded the storm with its 11 a.m. advisory Tuesday, recording maximum sustained winds of 75 miles per hour.

The system could be "a unsafe, major hurricane" along the northeastern Gulf Coast on Wednesday, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Michael also poses an immediate threat to western Cuba, where it will pass as it heads into the Gulf of Mexico.

"The main hazards will be gusty winds, flooding and isolated tornadoes", the National Weather Service's Hazardous Weather Outlook for South Florida said at 11 a.m. Monday.

The center of Michael is expected to move across the Yucatán Channel - a strait between Mexico and Cuba - Monday, slowly making its way across the eastern Gulf of Mexico through Wednesday.

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