Hurricane Michael strengthens to Category 3 as it menaces Florida

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Forecasters said they expect Hurricane Michael to strengthen into a major storm by the time it makes landfall along the Florida Panhandle on Wednesday. Mandatory evacuation orders were issued for residents of barrier islands, mobile homes and low-lying coastal areas in Gulf, Wakulla and Bay counties.

Michael was moving north at 12 mph, about 255 miles south of Panama City, Florida and 375 miles from Apalachicola, Florida, the National Hurricane Center said in its evening advisory.

Earlier it said Michael could produce three life-threatening hazards along portions of the northeastern Gulf Coast: storm surge, heavy rainfall, and hurricane-force winds, with storm surge and hurricane watches in effect.

If Michael's forecast holds true, the storm's surge and waves could bring water levels as high as 16 to 20 feet in the Florida Panhandle.

The WGNO weather team will continue to monitor the latest information on Hurricane Michael and will continue to bring you the latest updates on-air, online, and on social media.

Michael became a major hurricane on Tuesday afternoon as it zipped northward across the eastern Gulf of Mexico.

Hurricane Michael escalated somewhat quickly. We can rebuild your house, we cannot rebuild your life.

Michael was a Category 1 hurricane but could make landfall as a Category 3, and forecasters warned it could send down 10 to 30 centimetres of rain. There is a 70 percent chance of precipitation with heavy rainfall and wind gusts Wednesday, rising to a 100 percent chance Wednesday night, with winds topping 25 miles per hour at times.

Producing heavy rainfall and strong winds, Michael is moving north-northwestward at 12 miles per hour.

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Florida Governor Rick Scott, who has suspended his Senate campaign due to the impending storm, warns that this hurricane is "going to be historic" and cause more destruction than the state's panhandle has seen in decades.

Any time a tropical system, and it's remnants, move north up the East Coast we need to be concerned here in ME for wind and rain.

From left, Haskel Johnson, Daniel Tippett, Jennifer Tippett and Nobuko Johnson fill sand bags at the Lynn Haven Sports Complex in Lynn Haven, Fla., Oct. 8, 2018, to prepare for Hurricane Michael.

Michael is forecast to reach the Panhandle as a major Category 3 hurricane on Wednesday with 125 miles per hour winds.

Wes Maul, the director of the state's division of emergency management, sent an email late Monday night to state legislators, county officials and mayors statewide saying state emergency management staff had not received "nearly the volume of mission requests that the current scenario would normally dictate" ahead of Michael's arrival.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey also declared a statewide emergency in her state, which includes Russell, Lee, Chambers and Barbour counties near Columbus. So, if you take in those tides, which are already a few feet above what they should be, and then you add the storm surge on top of that, both of those numbers combined nine to 13 feet of storm surge.

"I know people are tired from Florence, but don't let this storm catch you with your guard down", North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said, adding, "A number of homes have rooftop tarps that could be damaged or blown away with this wind". In fact, this time past year, Hurricane Nate also formed within a gyre in the Caribbean.

Past year saw a string of catastrophic storms batter the western Atlantic - including Irma, Maria and Harvey, which caused a record-equaling $125 billion in damage when it flooded the Houston metropolitan area. The governor has declared a state of emergency in 35 counties, and is stressing that residents should "absolutely" evacuate if ordered to.

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