Hurricane Michael strengthens; National Hurricane Center warns of ‘life-threatening storm surge

Hurricane Michael is barreling toward the Florida Panhandle as people in the storm’s path prepare for the arrival of a possible Category 3 storm.

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The National Hurricane Center is warning of “life-threatening storm” surge of 8 to 12 feet, which could cause flooding of roads, homes and businesses.

Mandatory evacuation orders are already posted in three Panhandle counties: Gulf, Wakulla and Bay Counties, according to news reports.

Here are the latest updates:

Update 8:11 a.m. EDT Oct. 9: Hurricane Michael has strengthened and is now a Category 2 storm. it has top wind speeds of 100 mph, The Associated Press reported.

The storm is scheduled to hit the Florida coast Wednesday then will hit Alabama, Georgia and the Carolinas Wednesday night and Thursday, the AP reported.

About 120,000 people are under evacuation orders in Bay County, Florida. And county officials have advised them that they need to leave earlier rather than later. If anyone decides to stay, officials say stock up on supplies and "don't expect the government to help take care of you. You need to take care of yourselves."

Update 2:12 a.m. EDT Oct. 9: Hurricane Michael "has changed little in strength during the past few hours," the National Hurricane Center said in its 2 a.m. advisory.

The storm has maximum sustained winds of 90 mph and is about 455 miles south of Panama City and 425 miles south of Apalachicola. It is moving north-northwest at 12 mph, the advisory said.

Read more here.

Update 11:30 p.m. EDT Oct. 8: Hurricane Michael could bring dangerous winds and storm surge to parts of the Florida Panhandle when it makes landfall along Florida's Gulf Coast sometime Wednesday.

The storm is moving north at 12 mph with 90 mph wind speeds, according to the National Hurricane Center.

A State of Emergency was issued in 26 counties as Florida's State Emergency Response Team projected Michael will make landfall as a 115 mph Category 3 hurricane and could continuing intensifying over the next 36 hours.

A hurricane warning is posted for parts of the Gulf Coast, and the National Hurricane Center is warning of dangerous winds that are expected to move inland as the storm makes landfall, extending across parts of the Florida Panhandle, southern Georgia and southeast Alabama.

The storm is expected to produce heavy rains and dangerous flash flooding.

Update 5:23 p.m. EDT Oct. 8: Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey declared a state of emergency as Hurricane Michael barreled north toward the Gulf coast, reported.

"Tomorrow we will start seeing the effects of Michael and those in its path will need to take shelter by tomorrow evening," the governor said in a news release. "Please stay weather aware today and tomorrow for any forecast changes. Most importantly, heed all warnings and instructions from local authorities."

The storm is expected to cause heavy rain, high winds and power outages in Alabama reported.

Update 5:02 p.m. EDT Oct. 8: Hurricane Michael is bringing hurricane-force winds to the western tip of Cuba, according to the 5 p.m. advisory issued by the National Hurricane Center.

The storm was moving north at 9 mph and had maximum sustained winds of 80 mph.

The National Hurricane Center issued a hurricane warning from the Alabama-Florida border to the Suwannee River. A tropical storm warning was issued from the Alabama-Florida border west to the Mississippi state line and from the Suwannee River to the Chassahowitzka River. A tropical storm watch was issued from the Chassahowitzka River to Anna Maria Island near Bradenton, Florida, and from the Alabama-Mississippi border west to the Pearl River.

Update 2:48 p.m. EDT Oct. 8: Mandatory evacuations have been ordered by the Bay County Commission in advance of Hurricane Michael. The evacuation order tells those living in Zones A, B, and C in the evacuation zone map must leave their homes starting at daylight Tuesday, the Panama City News Herald reported.

Click here to see what areas are under the evacuation order and how to proceed.

Update 2:15 p.m. EDT Oct. 8: President Donald Trump says that the administration will be ready when Hurricane Michael makes landfall.

During his comments to a convention of chiefs of police being held in Orlando, Trump said, his administration is working with local and state officials in Florida and are urging everyone in the path of the storm to prepare and listen to local officials, CNN reported.

Trump also said the Federal Emergency Management Agency has been briefed in advance of the storm, CNN reported.

Earlier in the day, Florida Gov. Rick Scott called up 500 members of the Florida National Guard to help with preparations and get ready for the storm to hit.

"We are well-equipped, with assets including high water vehicles, helicopters, boats and generators," the governor's office announced.

But Florida isn't the only state preparing for the worst. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has raised the Texas State Operations Center preparedness from "normal conditions" to increased readiness." He has told residents in the state to prepare for flash flooding and heavy rains as Hurricane Michael moves across the Gulf of Mexico, CNN reported.

Update 11:00 a.m. EDT Oct. 8: Hurricane Michael is continuing to strengthen. The National Hurricane Center says that life-threatening storm surge could hit part of the Florida Gulf Coast.  It is expected to bring with heavy rainfall and hurricane force winds. Residents are being advised to listen to local officials when it comes to preparing for the storm.

An update from the National Hurricane Center's director is scheduled for 11:40 a.m. EDT.

Update 7:58 a.m. EDT Oct. 8: Tropical Storm Michael is "expected to become a hurricane very soon" and is pounding western Cuba with heavy rain and strong winds, the National Hurricane Center said in its 8 a.m. EDT advisory.

The storm has maximum sustained winds of 70 mph and is about 120 miles east-northeast of Cozumel, Mexico, and 70 miles south of Cuba's western tip. It is moving north at 7 mph, the advisory said.

Read more here.

Update 5:05 a.m. EDT Oct. 8: Tropical Storm Michael has almost reached hurricane strength, the National Hurricane Center said early Monday in its latest advisory.

The storm has maximum sustained winds of 70 mph and is about 90 miles east of Cozumel, Mexico, and 100 miles south-southwest of the western tip of Cuba. It is moving north at 7 mph.

A hurricane watch has been issued for Florida’s Panhandle and Big Bend, the advisory said.

Read more here.

Update 11:15 p.m. EDT Oct. 7: Florida Gov. Rick Scott has issued a state of emergency in 26 counties across the Panhandle as Tropical Storm Michael takes aim at the state.

Scott has suspended his Senate campaign to focus on the impending storm, he announced Sunday.

“This storm will be life-threatening and extremely dangerous,” he warned during a Sunday afternoon briefing.

"This storm has the potential to bring devastating impacts to the Panhandle and Big Bend and every family must be prepared," Scott said.

Original story:

Tropical Depression No. 14 strengthened into Tropical Storm Michael on Sunday afternoon and is heading for the Florida Panhandle, the NHC said.

Michael was moving in a northeasterly direction at 3 mph with wind speeds of 50 mph late Sunday afternoon.

Current models put the storm on track for a landfall Wednesday or Thursday morning in Florida’s Panhandle.

Remnants of the storm could blow through parts of North and South Carolina, already devastated by last month’s powerful Hurricane Florence, according to some computer models.

Tropical storm warnings were posted for western Cuba, Jamaica and parts of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, the National Weather Service reported. A warning means tropical storm conditions, including gusty winds and strong surf, is expected within 24 hours.

The National Hurricane Center said an Air Force hurricane hunter plane would investigate Tropical Storm Michael.

Michael is the 13th named storm of the 2018 hurricane season.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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