Hurricane Michael Takes Aim At North Florida While Strengthening Into Category 2

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"Michael could develop into a potentially catastrophic event for the northeastern Gulf Coast", the National Weather Service office in Tallahassee, Florida, announced, adding that Michael could potentially be the strongest hurricane to make landfall along the Florida Panhandle in 12 years.

Scott declared a state of emergency for 35 counties, and activated 2,500 National Guard troops and made more than 300 state troopers available for deployment.

Forecasters say Michael is continuing to strengthen as it moves over the eastern Gulf of Mexico through Tuesday night.

On its current track, it would make landfall somewhere along a coastline that includes the cities and towns of Fort Walton Beach, Panama City Beach, Port St. Joe, St. Teresa and the wildlife reserves bordering Apalachee Bay.

A number mandatory evacuations have been ordered in Florida counties ahead of Michael. Authorities warn that rescue crews will not be able to reach those who decide to remain in their homes immediately after the storm hits.

A hurricane hunter plane that bounced into the swirling eye of Michael off the western tip of Cuba late Monday found wind speeds were rising even as forecasters warned the storm could reach major hurricane status with winds topping 111 miles per hour (179 kph) by Tuesday night.

While Florence wrung itself out for days and brought ruinous rains, fast-moving Michael is likely to be more about wind and storm surge. Michael is moving quickly at 14 miles per hour and will take a long time to weaken, expected to be a hurricane well into Georgia before weakening further.

Scott also told caregivers at north Florida hospitals and nursing homes to do all they can to assure the safety of the elderly and infirm.

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Storm surge along the Big Bend of Florida looks like it will be particularly devastating.

The Carolinas are still recovering from Hurricane Florence, which left dozens dead and is estimated to have caused billions of dollars in damage last month. The severity of inland flooding, while serious, should be less than what was seen with Hurricane Florence due to Michael maintaining and increasing speed to the northeast, as opposed to stalling, as Florence did.

"If you're responsible for a patient, you're responsible for the patient".

The National Hurricane Center in Miami says the hurricane was 395 miles (635 kilometers) south of Panama City, Florida, and 365 miles (590 kilometers) south of Apalachicola, Florida. "Think about destruction we've seen before with storms like Hurricane Irma".

"I feel like that they should've provided something", she said.

In Alabama, Gov. Kay Ivey has placed the entire state under an emergency declaration.

Other locations in the state are under voluntary evacuation. Forecasters also warned spinoff tornadoes would also be a threat. The Governor reminded residents to prepare for possible power outages and to stay tuned to local news and monitor weather forecasts closely.

"There's nothing between us and this storm but warm water, and I think that's what terrifies us about the potential impacts", Gillum said.

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