Hurricane Michael gathers deadly force as Florida braces for monster storm

Hurricane Michael's path to Florida and Alabama

Less than 24 hours later, on Monday, Micheal became a Category 1 hurricane.

A hurricane warning is in effect for Pinar del Rio, Cuba, and a tropical storm warning is in effect for the Cuban province of the Isle of Youth and the coast of Mexico from Tulum to Cabo Catoche, including Cozumel.

Michael is expected to move north through the Gulf early this week before turning northeast toward the Florida Panhandle.

"I haven't made up my mind yet, but I know some of my staff are going", said Dave Trepanier, owner of Firefly, a restaurant a block from the beach in Panama City, Bay County, an area where the hurricane is expected to come ashore.

"Don't think that you can ride this out if you're in a low-lying area", Nelson said on CNN.

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

Hurricane Michael is expected to reach Florida's Panhandle region sometime Wednesday, before slowly moving through the bottom half of the southeastern United States over the next day.

Some feared significant tree damage and power outages in Florida's capital city.

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UPDATE (2:45 p.m.) - Hurricane Michael's form is still healthy, as deep moisture is wrapping around its center and an "eye" is starting to appear on satellite imagery.

Michael is projected to plough into Florida's panhandle at midday on Wednesday, unleashing potentially devastating waves of seawater as high as 3.6m that could rush inland for miles around the storm's centre, the National Hurricane Centre (NHC) warned.

Michael will likely become a weak category 1 hurricane with heavy rain and risky storm surge.

On the Panhandle, Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan warned residents during a news conference Monday evening that if they stay, first responders won't be able to reach them during the storm or immediately after. A hurricane warning was in effect for the Alabama-Florida border to the Suwanee River, with a hurricane watch in place from the Alabama-Florida border to the Mississippi-Alabama border.

NHC Director Ken Graham warned that Hurricane Michael's winds could reach at least 100 miles per hour or higher as the storm approaches the coast on October 10. A slight risk of severe weather has been outlined for central Georgia for today and tonight for the threat of spin-up tornadoes. The storm was centered about 60 miles (100 kilometers) off the western tip of Cuba, and about 485 miles (785 kilometers) south of Apalachicola. Maximum sustained winds are at 35 miles per hour, once they hit 39 miles per hour, we can officially call this storm Tropical Storm Michael (This will happen today).

Residents of Florida's Panhandle frantically filled sandbags, boarded up homes and secured boats in harbours Monday as they anxiously awaited Hurricane Michael, which forecasters warned could smash into the northeast Gulf coast as a risky major hurricane within days.

The hurricane is expected to be the most powerful storm to strike the southern USA state's panhandle in at least a decade. Michael poses an extremely risky threat to parts of the Florida gulf coast. US producers in the Gulf cut oil production by about 40 percent and natural gas output by 28 percent on Tuesday, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement said.

Swells are already expected to start impacting eastern and northern parts of the Gulf of Mexico in the next or so and are likely to cause "life-threatening surf and rip current conditions". Please consult products from your local weather office.NEXT ADVISORY -- Next intermediate advisory at 200 PM EDT.

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