A powerful hurricane named Michael is churning over the Gulf of Mexico — and with maximum sustained winds around 110 mph, it’s officially a Category 2 hurricane. Forecasters say the storm could bring heavy rainfall, storm surges and “dangerous” winds increasing for the northeastern Gulf Coast.
“Hurricane Michael is intensifying and is threatening the Northeastern Gulf Wednesday as a major hurricane,” said Fox News’ senior meteorologist Janice Dean, adding the storm is likely to strike the Florida Panhandle as a Category 3 storm as “conditions are favorable for rapid intensification along Michael’s path.”
Michael is now the 13th named storm of the 2018 hurricane season. Here’s what you need to know as the storm continues to strengthen over the next few days.
Where is the hurricane now?
The storm is 335 miles south-southwest of Apalachicola, Florida and 360 miles south of Panama City, the National Hurricane Center said in a 10 a.m. ET advisory.
The storm is moving north-northwest at 12 mph and has maximum sustained winds of 110 mph.
“A north-northwestward to northward motion is expected through tonight, followed by a northeastward motion on Wednesday and Thursday,” the NHC said in its Monday morning advisory.
The center of Michael is expected to move across the eastern Gulf of Mexico through Tuesday night. It will then move inland over the Florida Panhandle or Big Bend area on Wednesday. The Gulf’s warmer temperatures and favorable atmospheric conditions may fuel the storm’s strength.
A hurricane warning is in effect for the Alabama-Florida border to the Suwannee River area in Florida. A watch is in effect from the Alabama-Florida border to the Mississippi-Alabama border. A state of emergency was declared in Alabama Monday.
“Hurricane conditions are possible within the hurricane warning area along the U.S. Gulf coast by Wednesday, with tropical storm conditions possible by tonight or early Wednesday. Hurricane conditions will also spread well inland across portions of the Florida Panhandle, southeastern Alabama and southwestern Georgia,” the NHC added.
What else should I know?
Florida Gov. Rick Scott issued an order for a state of emergency for 26 counties to rush preparations in the Panhandle and the Big Bend area, freeing up resources and activating 500 members of the Florida National Guard ahead of Tropical Storm Michael.
“This storm will be life-threatening and extremely dangerous,” Scott said Sunday after receiving a briefing at the State Emergency Operations Center. He warned that storm surge could affect areas of Florida not in the storm’s direct path.
The Florida Panhandle and Big Bend into southern Georgia and southeastern Alabama are planning on seeing at least 4 to 8 inches of rain, with up to a foot of in some parts. The Florida Keys are already experiencing strong winds and heavy rainfall, Dean said Tuesday.
“Let’s all stay safe and watch this storm closely. As we have seen before, it can change direction and impact any part of our state,” Scott tweeted Monday morning, adding, “EVERY FAMILY must be prepared. We can rebuild your home, but we cannot rebuild your life.”
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey warned locals to prepare for the storm and review all emergency preparedness plans.
“Alabama is once again in the path of a hurricane, but I know Alabamians will once again come together and be prepared for whatever Michael may bring,” Ivey stated, adding residents should start seeking shelter by Tuesday night.
This storm is expected to bring heavy rains to parts of the Carolinas still recovering from Hurricane Florence last month. It can also bring isolated tornadoes to the eastern side of the storm.
Michael is expected to bring a life-threatening storm surges along the Florida coast. Check out this interactive map from the NHC to see flooding potential in your area due to the storm.
Travis Fedschun, Kaitlyn Schallhorn and The Associated Press contributed to this report.