Hurricane Michael strengthens to Category 2 and takes aim at north Florida

Hurricane Michael European model

After hitting Florida, the storm is forecast to move northeast on Wednesday and Thursday along the Atlantic Coast and batter the Carolinas, which are still recovering from Hurricane Florence last month.

Hurricane Michael strengthened to a Category 2 storm with 100-mile-per-hour winds on Tuesday as Florida's governor warned it could bring "total devastation" to parts of the southern USA state. Michael was moving north at 12 miles per hour (19 kph) and is expected to bring life-threatening storm surge and heavy rain to the northeastern Gulf Coast.

Hurricane Michael is expected to be the first major hurricane to hit the Panhandle since Hurricane Dennis in 2005, which made landfall near Pensacola, according to hurricane center data.

The NHC warned residents along more than 300 miles (480 km) of coastline, from Florida's border with Alabama to the Suwannee River in Florida, to brace for hurricane conditions.

"You can not hide from storm surge", Florida Gov. Rick Scott warned at a news conference Tuesday.

"This storm will be life-threatening and extremely unsafe", Scott said at a news conference Sunday.

Michael could also dump up to a foot of rain over some panhandle communities before it sweeps through the Southeast and goes out to sea over the next few days.

Most of the rain was blamed on a low-pressure system off the Pacific coast, but Hurricane Michael in the Caribbean could have also contributed.

"It looks like what we are planning for Wednesday is tropical storm-force winds of 39 to 57 miles per hour", said Jonathan Lord, Flagler County's emergency services chief.

Forecasters said parts of Florida's marshy, lightly populated Big Bend area - the crook of Florida's elbow - could see up to 12 feet (3.7 meters) of storm surge.

The Florida Disaster website on October 9 said that parts or all of Bay County, Citrus County, Franklin County, Dixie County, Gulf County, Jackson County, Levy County, Okaloosa County, Taylor County, Wakulla County, and Walton County have mandatory evacuation orders. "As Hurricane Michael nears landfall, we are working with state and local officials in Florida to take all necessary precautions", Trump said on Monday.

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The hurricane is expected to make landfall Wednesday in Florida before crossing Georgia and the Carolinas as a weaker storm.

Governor Rick Scott warned residents to get out of the way, saying on Tuesday: "This is a monstrous storm".

The NHC warned that the waves and rain could trigger deadly flooding, and that residents within the hurricane warning zone should likewise "prepare for life-threatening winds".

The Florida Highway Patrol is sending 100 state troopers to the Panhandle and Big Bend areas in preparation for the storm, he said. High surf warnings were in effect already at the Alabama coast.

The governor's office cautioned that flash flooding and tornadoes are possible with any hurricane.

Other locations in the state are under voluntary evacuation.

As the storm closed in on the US, it caused havoc in the Caribbean. It developed into a hurricane Monday. "Take care of them", he said.

The Category 1 storm was centered about 390 miles (627 kilometers) south of Apalachicola and 420 miles (675 kilometers) south of Panama City, Florida.

Still, not everyone is heeding evacuation orders.

The sheriff's office says Wakulla County shelters were rated safe only for hurricanes below that threshold.

According to an alert published by the Cuban Civil Defense, meteorologists warned affected residents that they could experience hurricane-force winds. With Michael's winds projected to be even stronger, residents were urged to evacuate inland.

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