Storm Michael has been upgraded to a hurricane as it continues to strengthen across the Gulf and barrels toward the the Sunshine State, threatening to make landfall as a Category 3.
Michael is currently a Category 1 hurricane whipping 75mph winds 20 miles off the coast of Cuba as it moves across the Caribbean at a rate of 7mph.
Florida Gov Rick Scott has issued a state of emergency for 35 counties in the Panhandle, warning it could bring winds up to 111mph when it makes landfall early Wednesday.
Residents in parts of Panama City Beach have been issued mandatory evacuation orders starting Tuesday morning.
According to AccuWeather, the storm will deliver around 4-8 inches of rain from the Florida Panhandle into parts of the Carolinas later this week, threatening to flood areas still reeling from Hurricane Florence last month.
Tropical Storm Michael is strengthening as it carves its way up through the Caribbean and is expected to make landfall in the Florida Panhandle in the middle of the week
The map above shows rainfall estimates across the East Coast as Hurricane Michael passes
The satellite image above shows the storm’s location south of Florida as of 9am EST Monday
The Federal Emergency Management Agency mobilized resources from the federal government to assist in preparation early Monday.
Scott also activated 500 members of the Florida National Guard ahead of the storm.
‘This storm will be life-threatening and extremely dangerous,’ the governor said after receiving a briefing at the State Emergency Operations Center.
The governor warned that storm surge could affect areas of Florida not in the storm’s direct path.
‘If this storm hit Panama City, Tampa could still have storm surge,’ said Scott, referring to two Florida cities about 375 miles apart by highway. ‘Every family must be prepared.’
Florida Gov Rick Scott (pictured) issued a state of emergency in 26 counties on Sunday
The US National Hurricane Center upgraded Michael from a tropical depression to a named tropical storm on Sunday.
The storm could strengthen into a hurricane by Monday night or Tuesday as its center moves over the Yucatan Channel, crosses the Gulf of Mexico and nears the Florida Panhandle coast sometime Wednesday.
Forecasters advised residents along the northeastern and central US Gulf Coast to monitor the storm’s progress.
The risk of damaging winds will gradually lessen after Michael makes landfall, meteorologists say, but heavy rains will likely continue to expand across the South and the mid-Atlantic, threatening areas of the Carolinas devastated by Hurricane Florence last month.
The graphic above shows the projected path of the center of the storm, the strongest part
The risk of damaging winds will gradually lessen after Michael makes landfall in Florida but heavy rains will likely continue to expand across the South and into the Carolinas
The storm was located 90 miles off the coast of Cozumel, Mexico, early Monday morning
A tropical storm warning was in effect for the Cuban provinces of Pinar del Rio and the Isle of Youth as well as the coast of Mexico from Tulum to Cabo Catoche. A warning indicates tropical storm conditions are expected, in this case, within 24 hours.
The US National Hurricane Center warned that the storm could produce a foot of rain in western Cuba, potentially triggering flash floods and mudslides in mountainous areas.
An Air Force hurricane hunter airplane was sent into the storm to investigate, the agency said.
Tropical storm winds extended out 205 miles, primarily east of the storm’s center.
Hundreds of families were evacuated to shelters in Honduras as heavy rains from Michael drenched the Central American country on its way to Florida.
The Permanent Commission of Contingencies said Sunday that at least 260 homes have been damaged, mostly in southern Honduras, and that more than 6,000 people have been impacted by the rains.
School was canceled nationwide Monday.
Images on social media showed families wading through thigh-high water, rivers rushing onto streets and roads to communities cut off by mudslides.
Local media reported several deaths. Homes in Honduras that are built close to waterways or wedged precariously on hillsides are vulnerable to being washed away by rain.
Michael is the 13th named storm of the 2018 hurricane season, according to hurricane center spokesman Dennis Feltgen.