'Monstrous' Hurricane Michael forecast to hit Gulf Coast with 120-mph winds

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Michael, now a Category 1 hurricane slashing Cuba, is forecast to be a "dangerous major hurricane" when it smacks the US Gulf Coast on Wednesday, the National Hurricane Center said.

A Hurricane Watch is in effect for Alabama-Florida border to Suwannee River Florida.

The National Hurricane Center upgraded the storm with its 11 a.m. advisory Tuesday, recording maximum sustained winds of 75 miles per hour.

Michael is forecast to make landfall by midweek in Florida's Panhandle or Big Bend.

Maximum sustained winds increased to 75 miles per hour and forecasters expect Michael to continue to strengthen.

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NHC tweeted: "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". Tropical storm winds extended out 175 miles (280 kilometers) from the storm's center.

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

Almost a month after Hurricane Florence created unprecedented flooding, the Grand Strand is in another storm's path.

Storms can force the tide in or out, which means possible flooding, but a recent dry spell locally means the ground can withstand more rainfall, Orrock said. A major hurricane is defined as Category 3 or greater on the Saffir-Simpson scale, with sustained winds of 111mph or greater.

Florida State University and Leon County schools canceled classes from Tuesday through Friday.

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After landfall, Michael is forecast to move northeastward over Georgia and the Carolinas, where recovery from Hurricane Florence is ongoing. Scott advised Gulf Coast residents to prepare for possible evacuation orders, and he put more than 5,000 National Guard soldiers on alert.

Forecasters say it could become a risky Category 2 hurricane by the time of an expected midweek landfall on the Gulf Coast in the Florida Panhandle. "Take this seriously and keep your family safe", Scott urged his constituents while speaking from Bay County. Michael is now about 50 miles south of the western tip of Cuba and is expected to make landfall along the Florida panhandle this week.

The storm was about 220 kilometres east-northwest of Cozumel, Mexico, with maximum sustained winds of winds of 120 kilometres per hour, forecasters said.

"All indications are that it's going to be severe", said City Commissioner Gil Ziffer, adding that if the storm hits Florida's capital, there would be significant tree damage and power outages.

It's the 14th storm of the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season.

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For all the latest information on Hurricane Michael visit the National Hurricane Center online.

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