Hurricane Michael could slam into the Florida panhandle as a dangerous Category 3 storm by Wednesday evening, according to the Weather Channel.
Forecasters have said that the storm is predicted to intensify as the hurricane, currently a Category 1 storm, churns through the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The hurricane is expected to hit the northeastern Gulf with strong winds, hard rain that could lead to flooding, and a significant storm surge, said the network.
Category 3 hurricanes, according to the Saffir-Simpson hurricane wind scale, has wind speeds from 111 to 129 miles per hour, the Weather Channel noted. The scale does not measure or predict other threats from a hurricane, like storm surge, rainfall, or tornadoes, the channel noted.
The Weather Channel said Monday that Hurricane Michael was hovering about 30 miles northwest off Cuba’s western edge inching northward.
“A potentially catastrophic event is developing,” the National Weather Service in Tallahassee, Florida, warned Monday. “Michael has been upgraded to a hurricane and is forecast to continue to strengthen as it moves toward the northern Gulf coast, reaching major hurricane status Tuesday evening before landfall.”
The weather service stated that residents will be able to feel the storm’s power as early as late Tuesday to early Wednesday. Forecasters said that the storm could include “life-threatening” storm surge, downed power lines, uprooted trees, and debris that could block access to roads and other escape routes.
The NWS stated that isolated flash floods and tornadoes spawned by the hurricane could leave homes and other buildings with significant structural damage.
“The main change with this forecast package is that Michael is stronger and slightly slower than the previous forecast, increasing our threat for higher winds and wind gusts as well as storm surge,” the National Weather Service stated.
The Weather Channel wrote that the Florida Keys area was already being hit with strong rain from the outer bands of Michael, with rainfall totals expected to reach two to four inches through Tuesday. The network said some places there could see up to six inches of rain.
Hurricane warnings have been issued along the Alabama-Florida border and southwestern Georgia, per the Weather Channel.
The network added that tropical storm warnings were in effect from the Alabama/Florida border west to the Mississippi/Alabama border and from Suwannee River, Florida, southward to Chassahowitzka, Florida.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott announced on social media that his administration was closing state offices in the path of Hurricane Michael on Tuesday through Thursday.
At my direction, state offices will be closed tomorrow, October 9th- Thursday, October 11th in the 35 affected counties where I have declared a State of Emergency.
— Rick Scott (@FLGovScott) October 8, 2018
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey took action as well, declaring a state of emergency Monday as Michael nears the Alabama-Florida border as the storm marched closer, according to CNN.
“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 said in the statement, CNN said.