National Hurricane Center says Michael is now a hurricane

Tropical Storm Michael, Heading North, Could Become Category 2 Hurricane

Tracking Michael

The National Hurricane Center says Michael is now a hurricane and will continue to strengthen as it approaches US.

Because of the storm surge threat, three Florida panhandle counties have issued mandatory evacuation orders ahead of the hurricane.

A storm surge warning was put into effect from Okaloosa/Walton county line to the Anclote River, according to the Weather Service, while most Tampa Bay remained under a storm surge watch.

At 2 p.m. ET, Michael was centered about 145 miles northeast of Cozumel, Mexico, and 20 miles southwest of the western tip of Cuba Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 30 miles from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 175 miles.

By Wednesday, Michael will likely move inland over the Florida Panhandle and Big Bend, making its way across the southeastern US that night and Thursday morning.

Inland tropical weather watches have already been issued for portions of south Georgia in advance of Michael, however, an exact forecast for metro Atlanta remains uncertain and may vary, given the exact path Hurricane Michael may take across the state. Tropical storm winds extended out 170 miles (275 kilometers), primarily to the northeast and southeast of the storm's center.

A Hurricane Watch has been issued for the Panhandle and Big Bend areas while coastal Manatee County and area waters are under a Tropical Storm Watch, meaning tropical storm conditions are possible within 48 hours.

Michael is now officially a Category 1 hurricane, and is expected to be a Category 3 when it makes landfall Wednesday.

Michael battered parts of Mexico and Cuba with powerful winds and drenching rains on Sunday and into early Monday.

It was moving to the North at 7 miles per hour with maximum sustained winds of 75 miles per hour.

The number of counties under a state of emergency has grown to 36.

Scott said 500 Florida National Guard members had been activated for planning, logistics and response, and another 5,000 stood at the ready.

Tyndall Air Force Base, near Panama City, and Hurlburt and Eglin officials said in social media posts over the -past two days that they were watching the storm as it develops.

Hurricane Michael will also create conditions for a tornado to potentially form.

Michael is now the 13th named storm of the 2018 hurricane season. The storm is expected to gain hurricane status by Monday night or Tuesday as its core slowly crawls into the Gulf of Mexico, nearing the Florida Panhandle coast around midweek.

Along the coast, some areas could see storm surge and strong winds as Michael moves out to sea by the weekend.

"All indications are that it's going to be severe", said City Commissioner Gil Ziffer, adding that if the storm hits Florida's capital, there would be significant tree damage and power outages.

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