Evacuations as Florida braces for 'monstrous' Hurricane Michael

Michael almost a hurricane moving north into the Gulf	 	 	 			Michael continues to show signs of strengthening Monday morning

A state of emergency was issued in Alabama on Monday as "dangerous" Hurricane Michael continues to barrel toward the US, with the potential to hit the Florida Panhandle mid-week.

The forecast indicates Michael may be a Category 3 hurricane - with winds from 111 to 129 miles per hour - when it strikes Florida.

"This storm will be life-threatening and extremely risky", Scott said Sunday following a briefing at the State Emergency Operations Center. "Well-built framed homes may incur major damage or removal of roof decking and gable ends".

In Cuba, it dropped more than 10 inches (27 centimeters) of rain in places, flooding fields, damaging roads, knocking out power and destroying some homes in the western province of Pinar del Rio. "Electricity and water will be unavailable for several days to weeks after the storm passes".

He declared a state of emergency for 35 Florida counties from the Panhandle to Tampa Bay, activated hundreds of Florida National Guard members and waived tolls to encourage those close to the coast to evacuate inland.

Michael is expected to sweep up the East Coast, and tropical storm-force winds were projected to reach the state Thursday, according to the center's projections.

The NHC said Michael could still grow stronger before it reaches the Florida coast.

Heavy rainfall and strong winds were spreading across western Cuba yesterday.

The storm now has maximum sustained winds of 75 miles per hour. A Category 1 hurricane has sustained winds of 74 to 95 miles per hour.

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Michael is now centered about 120 miles east northeast of Cozumel and 70 miles south of the western tip of Cuba, and it is expected to work its way into the Gulf of Mexico, where warm waters will make the storm much stronger. But forecasters said its winds and outer rainbands would begin to start lashing the coast hours ahead of the eye.

Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 45 miles (75 km) from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 175 miles (280 km). It's forecast to be the most destructive storm to hit the Florida Panhandle in decades, and it will send life-threatening surges of ocean water into coastal areas along the gulf. The areas from Chassahowitzka to Anna Maria Island and between the Alabama-Florida border and the Okaloosa-Walton county line could see 2 to 4 feet of storm surge.

Michael gathered greater strength over warm Gulf of Mexico waters throughout the day on Tuesday as it jumped from a Category 2 to Category 3 on the five-step Saffir-Simpson wind scale.

"This storm will be life-threatening and extremely unsafe", Scott said at a press briefing.

"This storm has the potential to bring devastating impacts to communities across the Panhandle and Big Bend and every family must be prepared".

"Everybody's got to get ready". There is still the chance for there to be tropical storm force winds in Charlotte. Traffic slowed to a crawl on a coastal highway in Panama City Beach as many people tried to heed Florida Gov. Rick Scott's warning to get out before it's too late.

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, Florida's Democratic nominee for governor, had planned to campaign in South Florida on Monday and Tuesday, but instead threw himself into helping his city's residents fill sandbags and make other preparations. Hurricane Warnings have been unchanged for southwestern Georgia and western Big Bend counties.

"If you decide to stay in your home and a tree falls on your house or the storm surge catches you and you're now calling for help, there's no one that can respond to help you", Morgan said.

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