'Monstrous' Hurricane Michael gains strength, takes aim at north Florida

Michael is expected to hit early Wednesday, then carve a path of destruction first through Florida, then northeast through Alabama, Georgia, the Carolinas and Virginia.

Parts of Florida's Big Bend could see up to a foot of storm surge with a foot of rain as a state of emergency has been declared in 35 counties from the Panhandle to Tampa Bay and the entire state of Alabama, according to The Associated Press.

"#HurricaneMichael isn't heading to any one town..."

The storm is expected to reach category three strength before it makes landfall on Wednesday.

The storm was expected to bring up to 30cm of rain with storm surges up to 3.7m, according to the US National Hurricane Center.

With the storm next entering the eastern part of the Gulf of Mexico, which has warm water and favorable atmospheric conditions, "There is a real possibility that Michael will strengthen to a major hurricane before landfall", Robbie Berg, a hurricane specialist at the Miami-based storm forecasting hub, wrote in an advisory.

Michael is a Category 2 storm, with sustained wind speeds of nearly 100 miles per hour (155 km/h), according to NOAA.

As of 2 p.m. EDT, Michael was moving north at 12 mph, about 310 miles south of Apalachicola, Florida, with maximum sustained winds of 110 mph.

"Hurricane Michael is forecast to be the most destructive storm to hit the Florida Panhandle in decades", Gov. Rick Scott said.

The combination of a unsafe storm surge and the tide will cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded by rising waters moving inland from the shoreline.

The storm is strengthening and expected to hit the Florida Gulf Coast as a unsafe major hurricane Wednesday, according to the National Hurricane Center.

A hurricane Warning was issued from the Alabama-Florida border eastward to Suwannee River. Storm surge recedes by Thursday afternoon.

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The National Hurricane Center has enacted hurricane, tropical storm, and storm surge warnings for more than 300 miles of the Florida coast.

A Tropical Storm Watch and Storm Surge Watch have been issued for coastal Manatee, Pinellas, and Hillsborough Counties.

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

The Category 1 storm was centered about 390 miles (627 kilometers) south of Apalachicola and 420 miles (675 kilometers) south of Panama City, Florida.

Michael gained new strength over warm tropical waters amid fears it would swiftly intensify into a major hurricane before striking Florida's northeast Gulf Coast, where frantic coastal dwellers are boarding up homes and seeking evacuation routes away from the unsafe storm heading their way.

Hurricanes are violent storms that can bring devastation to coastal areas, threatening lives, homes and businesses.

"I haven't made up my mind yet, but I know some of my staff are going", said Dave Trepanier, owner of Firefly, a restaurant a block from the beach in Panama City, Bay County, an area where the hurricane is expected to come ashore.

"Everybody's got to get ready".

"You haven't got anywhere to go (if the bridges close)", he said Tuesday morning.

Florida has had more hurricanes in October than in any other month. He said tolls were being suspended in the state's northwest region to ease the evacuation process, and the Florida Highway Patrol is sending almost 350 state troopers to the Panhandle and Big Bend areas.

In Panhandle counties, most state offices, schools and universities were closed for the rest of the week.

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