Evacuations ordered as Hurricane Michael speeds toward Florida in US

Since the storm will spend two to three days over the Gulf, which has very warm water temperatures and favorable atmospheric conditions, "there is a real possibility that Michael will strengthen to a major hurricane before landfall", Robbie Berg, a hurricane specialist at the Miami-based storm forecasting hub, wrote in an advisory.

Gov. Rick Scott visited Pasco County on Monday and begged residents to prepare as Hurricane Michael built steam heading toward Florida's Gulf Coast.

"Michael is forecast to be a unsafe major hurricane when it reaches the northeastern Gulf Coast on Wednesday, and life-threatening storm surge is possible along portions of the Florida Gulf Coast", the National Hurricane Center wrote Monday.

The National Hurricane Centre (NHC) said a "life-threatening storm surge" was expected along much of the coast of the Florida Panhandle.

At 2 p.m. the center of the storm was about 20 miles southwest of the western tip of Cuba.

Manatee County also was included in Scott's request that President Donald Trump declare a pre-landfall emergency in those 35 counties in preparation for Hurricane Michael.

Far inland, from the Florida Panhandle into Georgia and the Carolinas, rainfall totals are predicted to be up to 8 inches, with a foot of rain possible in isolated areas.

By 5 p.m. Monday, Michael's top sustained winds were around 80 miles per hour as it headed north at 9 miles per hour. On the forecast track, the center of Michael will move over the Yucatan Channel on Monday, and then across the eastern Gulf of Mexico late Monday through Tuesday night, and approach the northeastern Gulf coast on Wednesday.

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For storm information specific to your area, please monitor products issued by your national meteorological service.

Current advisory shows winds are sustained at 75 miles per hour. We are working closely and coordinating with our local, state and federal partners in anticipation of the storm's potential impacts. The National Hurricane Center is telling residents to take this threat seriously and to expect storm surge and heavy rainfall along with risky winds.

Forecasters also measure hurricane intensity by central pressure, with lower pressures denoting a tighter circulation, better organization, and more powerful storm.

Strong winds and heavy rainfall is now spreading across the western portion of Cuba.

After hitting Florida, the storm is forecast to move north-east on Wednesday and Thursday along the Atlantic Coast and batter the Carolinas, which are still recovering from Hurricane Florence last month.

A Tropical Storm Watch is in effect for...

Worry over Hurricane Michael has also postponed the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Commission's highly anticipated hearings into the high school massacre scheduled for this week, as many of those on the commission live in the panhandle. As of Monday afternoon, Michael is projected to be the first major hurricane to slam the Panhandle since 2005.

  • Sonia Alvarado