'Potentially catastrophic' Hurricane Michael strengthens to Category 2, targets Florida

The latest on TS Michael and its Alabama impact

The latest on TS Michael and its Alabama impact Where does Michael

In Gulf County alone, the first to begin ordering residents of low-lying areas to higher ground, mandatory evacuation notices encompassed an estimated 3,800 homes, said Jessica Sasich of the county's emergency operations centre.

In its 8 a.m. ET report Tuesday, the National Hurricane Center reported the Category 2 storm with winds of 100 mph was 395 miles south of Panama City, FL.

Residents of Florida's Panhandle frantically filled sandbags, boarded up homes and secured boats in harbours Monday as they anxiously awaited Hurricane Michael, which forecasters warned could smash into the northeast Gulf Coast as a risky major hurricane within days.

Forecasters said it could bring 3 to 6 inches of rain to Georgia, the Carolinas and Virginia, triggering flash flooding in a corner of the country still recovering from Florence.

Forecasters said parts of the Panhandle and Florida's marshy, lightly populated Big Bend area - the crook of Florida's elbow - could see 9 to 13 feet (2.7 to 4 meters) of storm surge.

Gov. Rick Scott reiterated his warnings Monday evening during a news conference in Escambia County, encouraging residents along the coast to follow any evacuations orders as soon as possible.

"I am not seeing the level of traffic on the roadways that I would expect when we've called for the evacuation of 75 percent of this county", Bay County Sheriff Tommy Ford said.

A hurricane warning was in effect for the coastline from the Florida-Alabama border to the Suwannee River in Florida.

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Gov. Roy Cooper said Tuesday that Michael isn't expected to hit his state as hard as Florence did last month, but people shouldn't let their guard down, even if they're suffering from cleanup fatigue.

Pasco, Hernando and Citrus Counties are under a Storm Surge Warning.

The hurricane is expected to make landfall Wednesday in Florida before crossing Georgia and the Carolinas as a weaker storm.

In terms of wind intensity, that would make it stronger than Hurricane Florence, which had winds of 90 miles per hour when it blew ashore in North Carolina last month.

The National Hurricane Center said the storm was moving north-northwestward through the southern Gulf of Mexico, and that storm surge and hurricane warnings were in effect for the northeastern Gulf coast.

For Volusia and Flagler counties, the hurricane's path to the west will bring an increased chance of showers and thunderstorms, with gusty winds on Wednesday and Thursday.

Forecasters and emergency managers continued to warn that flooding from Michael's storm surge remains a risky threat at landfall, since the bend in the coastline traps powerful waves.

The storm will track up through Florida and Georgia before moving into North Carolina, bringing 2-5 inches of rain along with the threat of flooding and wind gusts of up to 60 miles per hour.

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"This storm has the potential to be a historic storm, please take heed", the sheriff's office said in the post.

Ford says "people need to start leaving now", adding that the roads are going to get "more and more congested as time goes on". Lines at gasoline stations grew as people left.

Ivey signed the emergency declaration Monday in anticipation of wide-spread power outages, wind damage and heavy rain associated with the storm. Hurricane-force winds extended outward up to 40 miles from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extended outward up to 195 miles, the National Hurricane Center said.

He said: "Today is about life and safety".

Two years ago, Hurricane Hermine knocked out power for days in Tallahassee and caused widespread flooding as it came up through the Gulf Coast.

Currently, the bulk of the forecast model guidance has the storm tracking southeast of the Maritimes, as well as Newfoundland this weekend.

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum helped residents in Florida's capital fill sandbags as the monster storm loomed.

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