Major Hurricane Michael to reach Panhandle Wednesday; multiple adversities for local area

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Forecasters say Hurricane Michael will strengthen into a major hurricane by late Tuesday as it continues on a unsafe path towards the southeastern US state of Florida.

At 11 a.m. Michael was about 50 miles south of the western tip of Cuba with maximum sustained winds of 75 mph.

Michael was lashing western Cuba late Monday morning with heavy rains and strong winds, according to the hurricane center.

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

Florida Governor Rick Scott declared a state of emergency in more than 20 counties along the Florida Panhandle and Big Bend.

Meanwhile, the S.C. Department of Transportation also is preparing in case the storm hits SC, the agency said Monday. A major hurricane is defined as Category 3 or greater on the Saffir-Simpson scale, with sustained winds of 111mph or greater. A Tropical Storm Watch covered the area from the Chassahowitzka River to Anna Maria Island, including Tampa Bay.

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.

A Storm Surge Warning is in effect for.

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey issued a state of emergency order Monday after concerns of severe weather and possible damages were raised.

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The Consulate General of the United Arab Emirates in NY on Monday issued a weather warning to Emiratis in U.S. as Hurricane Michael is expected to make landfall in the northern Gulf Coast on Wednesday.

"So dependent on where that eye is, is going to make a determination on what we're going to see in wind, rain and surge as it goes up", Litschauer said.

According to the NHC, Michael will likely make landfall early Wednesday morning, and is "forecast to be a risky major hurricane".

Florida's capital city of Tallahassee, which is in the Panhandle, opened two locations Sunday where residents could get sandbags to prepare for flooding.

State offices, schools and universities were to close on Tuesday through to the end of the week in Panhandle counties.

"Today it is about life and safety", Gillum said.

Farther west along Florida's Panhandle, the city of Pensacola tweeted to residents, "Be sure you have your emergency plan in place". "The potentially worst impact will be the 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. In addition, this rainfall will saturate the ground, making it more likely that trees will go down and cause power outages.

Aside from causing power outages, flooding and property damage, Michael could also worsen a toxic algae bloom that has plagued Florida's beaches for a year.