Storm Michael to slam Florida as hurricane

The latest on TS Michael and its Alabama impact

The hurricane is expected to make landfall in Florida's Panhandle or Big Bend on Wednesday before crossing Georgia and the Carolinas as a weaker storm.

Up to 12 inches of rain could fall in Florida's Panhandle and Big Bend, southeastern Alabama and southern Georgia, while parts of the Carolinas - recently deluged by Hurricane Florence - and southern Virginia eventually could see up to 6 inches, the hurricane center said. Please stay weather aware today and tomorrow for any forecast changes.

Michael is expected to be the first major hurricane (Category 3 or above) to strike the Florida Panhandle since Hurricane Dennis in 2005.

Packing top winds of 110 miles per hour, Michael spent the morning gaining strength in the gulf's warm waters as it barreled at 12 miles per hour toward the Florida Panhandle, where roughly 120,000 people are under mandatory evacuation orders.

The storm is expected to undergo rapid intensification again Tuesday.

The National Weather Service out of Tallahassee has posted a map showing a projected landfall at 1pm EST on Wednesday, along with current imagery of the storm's path.

Michael's core, with maximum sustained winds of 110 mph, was about 335 miles south of Panama City, Florida, as of 2 p.m. ET Tuesday, the National Hurricane Center said.

The storm is expected to hit the Florida Panhandle within the next day with winds of nearly 130 miles per hour, along with 12-foot-high storm surge and heavy rain that will drench its way into the Carolinas.

Florida's governor mobilized National Guard troops and thousands of Gulf Coast residents were ordered evacuated on Monday, two days before Hurricane Michael was forecast to slam ashore with life-threatening waves, winds and rains. Storm surge warnings stretched from just north of Tampa to Walton County, west of Panama City.

Life-threatening storm surge is forecast along portions of the Florida Gulf Coast regardless of the storm's exact track or intensity.

It could strengthen to a Category 2 hurricane by the time it approaches the Gulf Coast of Florida by Wednesday.

Conditions in the "very warm" Gulf of Mexico were expected to support continued strengthening, allowing Michael to become a major hurricane before it reaches the northern coast of the Gulf on Wednesday.

Gov. Rick Scott has declared an emergency in 35 counties across North Florida, to allow officials to prepare for the storm. "This storm will be life-threatening and extremely risky". "I think that's what terrifies us about the potential impacts".

"Everybody's got to get ready".

"For everyone thinking they can ride this storm out, I have news for you: that will be one of the biggest mistakes you can make in your life". The governor has also warned that there is a "significant" chance of tornadoes.

Since the Sunshine State has been battered by so many hurricanes, including the destructive Hurricane Andrew in 1992, Floridians are better prepared to handle flooding than virtually any other state.

"Hurricane Michael is a massive storm that could bring total devastation to parts of our state, especially in the Panhandle", Scott said.

Florida State University announced it was closing for the week on Tuesday, along with schools in Leon County, home to the state capital Tallahassee.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey issued a state of emergency in anticipation of widespread power outages, wind damage and debris produced by high winds.

"We are running out of time", the Republican governor said on Twitter.

The storm, which hasn't officially been upgraded to a hurricane just yet, is now located approximately 90 miles east of Cozumel, Mexico.

In a Facebook post Monday, the Wakulla County Sheriff's Office said no shelters would be open in Wakulla County because Michael was forecast to become a major hurricane with winds topping 111 miles per hour (178 kph).

Floridians in counties where election offices closed Tuesday for Hurricane Michael will be able to register to vote the day those offices reopen. A warning for the coast of Mexico from Tulum to Cabo Catoche, was canceled late Monday.

A Tropical Storm Watch is in effect for.

The Panhandle, from Pensacola to Apalachicola, will experience the most significant effects from the hurricane.

Coastal residents rushed to board up their homes and stock up on bottled water and other supplies.