Florida, Alabama bracing for 'monstrous' Hurricane Michael

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Hurricane and tropical storm warnings are in effect for parts of Cuba and Mexico's Yucatan peninsula, past which the storm is expected to track, while watches are in effect for much of Florida's Gulf coast, as well as Alabama.

Fueled by warm tropical waters, Michael gained new strength by nightfall and could reach major hurricane status with winds topping 111 miles per hour (179 kph) before its anticipated landfall Wednesday on the Panhandle or Big Bend area of Florida, forecasters warn.

The advisory added Michael will present "risk of life-threatening storm surge, heavy rainfall an unsafe winds increasing for the northeastern Gulf Coast".

Parts of Florida's curvy Big Bend could see up to 12 feet (3.5 meters) of storm surge, while Michael also could dump up to a foot (30 centimeters) of rain over some Panhandle communities as it moves inland, forecasters said.

Michael's maximum sustained winds had reached 70 miles per hour, it said. A hurricane watch has been posted for the northeast Gulf Coast from the Alabama/Florida border to Suwanee River, Florida, including Pensacola, Panama City and Tallahassee.

The National Hurricane Center has warned that a "life-threatening" storm surge is likely to strike the Panhandle.

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, who is the Democratic nominee for governor, had planned to campaign in South Florida Monday and Tuesday, but he said he would return to Tallahassee to help with storm preparations. Mobile and Baldwin Counties are also under a Hurricane Watch.

Hurricane Michael is now about 20 miles southwest of Cuba and is moving due north at 7 miles per hour. Tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 205 miles (335 km) primarily to the east of the center.

Rick Scott called Michael a "monstrous hurricane" with devastating potential from high winds, storm surge and heavy rains.

Michael reaches hurricane strength as it churns toward Florida
The storm is expected to dump 4 to 8 inches of rain on Cuba, with some areas of the island nation seeing up to a foot of water. A Hurricane Watch has been issued from the Alabama-Florida border eastward to the Suwanee River.

"It's a storm to keep an eye on", said meteorologist Tony Saavedra with the National Weather Service in Newport. NNE OR 20 DEGREES AT 3 miles per hour...6 KM/H MINIMUM CENTRAL PRESSURE...999 MB...29.50 INCHES WATCHES AND WARNINGS ------- CHANGES WITH THIS ADVISORY: None SUMMARY OF WATCHES AND WARNINGS IN EFFECT: A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for...

Hurricane conditions have spread over portions of western Cuba this afternoon, where a hurricane warning is now in effect.

On Sunday, a tropical storm formed in the northern Caribbean Sea.

Meanwhile, Michael continues to strengthen as it moves into the Gulf of Mexico.

An Air Force hurricane hunter airplane was sent into the storm to investigate, the hurricane center said.

Lowe's Home Improvement in Fort Walton Beach, according to Service Manager Jay Hildebrand, ran out of generators and water by 3 p.m. Hildebrand said the store was expecting an emergency shipment by Monday night.

In the storm's wake, the NHC said, "Michael is expected to produce heavy rainfall and flash flooding over portions of western Cuba and the northeastern Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico during the next couple of days".

Oil companies, including BP, Equinor, Exxon Mobil Corp and BHP Billiton, on Monday started evacuating personnel from oil and gas production platforms as Hurricane Michael began its trek up the eastern U.S. Gulf of Mexico. A separate map shows Columbus could see rain totals between 2 and 4 inches from the storm.

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