Michael strengthens into a hurricane, menaces Florida

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With Hurricane Michael rapidly intensifying and threatening to smash Florida's Panhandle with risky storm surge, flooding and winds, Gov. Rick Scott didn't mince words on Monday night: "Making decisions tomorrow might be too late".

Florida Governor Rick Scott declared a state of emergency for 35 counties, activating 500 National Guard troops in preparation for the storm.

"Heavy rainfall, wind and storm surge impacts will be possible across portions of the northern Gulf Coast by midweek", according to the hurricane center.

The Hurricane Center predicts the hurricane's peaks winds will reach 120 miles per hour at landfall, which would make Michael a Category 3 storm.

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

"There is a real possibility that Michael will strengthen to a major hurricane before landfall" after it spends the next two to three days over the Gulf of Mexico, which has very warm temperatures and favorable atmospheric conditions, Robbie Berg, a hurricane specialist with the NHC, wrote in an advisory.

"Hurricane Michael is forecast to be the most destructive storm to hit the Florida Panhandle in decades", Scott said. The storm is expected to bring life-threatening storm surge and heavy rain to there on Wednesday, and then it heads inland toward Georgia and the Carolinas.

A storm surge watch was in effect from Navarre east and south to Anna Maria Island and the Tampa Bay area.

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That Michael will move toward Florida should not come as a great surprise.

It is tough, Leaphart said, given road "teams haven't had a chance to rest and catch our breath from the last one". Overnight Tuesday, Florida Gov.

The Gulf Coast is forecast to see tropical storm conditions Tuesday night or early Wednesday, ahead of the hurricane activity expected for Wednesday.

Mobile and Baldwin Counties are also under a Hurricane Watch.

7 P.M. Michael continued a slow process of strengthening Monday and at the 7 p.m. intermediate advisory had winds of 85 miles per hour. Even if it is a category 2 or a category 1, millions of people will deal with it. Tallahassee is located about 30 miles from the coast, and within the projected forecast "cone", according to the National Hurricane Center.

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum says the rapid rise of Hurricane Michael led city officials to hold a "sobering" discussion about the potential impact the storm will have on the area.

Michael, which formed near the Yucatan Peninsula on Sunday, is expected to dump 4 to 8 inches of rain - and as much as 12 inches in some areas - on western Cuba before it hits the United States. He added, "Today it is about life and safety".

Scott warned that Michael could reach land as a Category 2 hurricane with winds in excess of 100 miles per hour. It will weaken into a tropical storm near the Carolinas and Virginia on its way back to the Atlantic Ocean, forecasters said.

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