Three counties ordered to evacuate as Hurricane Michael barrels toward Florida Panhandle

An are of low pressure in the far western Caribbean is expected to develop into a tropical depression or even a tropical storm on Sunday. Michaels is the next name up. The storm could threaten the U.S. Gulf Coast by Wednesday

NHC Director Ken Graham said Michael represented a "textbook case" of a hurricane system growing stronger as it drew near shore, in contrast to Hurricane Florence, which struck North Carolina last month after weakening in a slow, halting approach.

Speaking Monday to the International Association of Chiefs of Police convention in Orlando, Trump urged residents to heed local warnings and pledged the federal government's support.

Below is additional information from the National Hurricane Center.

Steady to rapid strengthening is forecast during the next day or so, and Michael is forecast to become a major hurricane by Tuesday or Tuesday night.Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 30 miles (45 km) from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 175 miles (280 km).The estimated minimum central pressure based on Air Force Reserve reconnaissance data is 982 mb (29.00 inches).HAZARDS AFFECTING LAND -- STORM SURGE: 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. Michael has strenghtened swiftly into a category 1 hurricane. Rainfall is a lesser threat due to the storm's progressive movement to the north. Tomorrow, a NE turn is still expected.

Shelters began opening as early as 8 p.m. Monday following the announcement of mandatory and voluntary evacuations in Northwest Florida.

UPDATE (8:00 A.M.) - Hurricane Michael is now a Category 2 hurricane, with maximum sustained winds of 100 miles per hour. (The 11am ET forecast on Monday from the National Hurricane Center calls for 120mph winds for Michael at landfall).

It was moving north around 9 miles per hour.

Widespread wind gusts of 40 miles per hour are expected. But Givens said he was staying put because he owns two businesses in the area. As of right now it is forecasted to make landfall Wednesday. Tropical storm warnings are posted for the Isle of Youth in Cuba and the coast of Mexico from Tulum to Cabo Catoche, including Cozumel.

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Forecasters say Hurricane Michael will strengthen into a major hurricane by late Tuesday as it continues on a risky path towards the southeastern USA state of Florida. This soon to be tropical storm will be a big rain maker and could become a hurricane in a couple of days. There is still the chance for there to be tropical storm force winds in Charlotte.

Michael is expected to sweep up the East Coast, and tropical storm-force winds were projected to reach the state Thursday, according to the center's projections. Heavy rains and storm surge will also be a concern. Specifics will be ironed out as the storm gets closer. "Storm preparations should be rushed to completion today and Tuesday".

A hurricane watch is in effect for the Alabama-Florida border to Suwannee River in Florida.

Even though the storm is predicted to make landfall Wednesday further north, Scott warned that areas as far south as Tampa Bay could be battered by unsafe storm surge as the storm passes by.

The potential Category 3 storm, which is predicted to hit the Panhandle Wednesday, is one of the most powerful storms the region has seen in decades.

"This is a storm that is going to be life-threatening in several ways", said Bo Patterson, the mayor of Port St Joe, Florida, whose small beachfront town lies directly in the storm's projected path. "Hurricane Michael is a monstrous storm and the forecast just keeps getting more risky, we are now just hours from seeing impacts", Florida Governor Rick Scott said on Tuesday afternoon.

You can catch the forecast on ABC 27 News starting at 5:00 each weekday morning, as well as ABC 27 News at Noon.

Do not forget to follow WTXL First Alert on Social Media.

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