Litschauer said the area likely will tropical storm force winds from Michael from Tuesday evening into Wednesday morning and could see 2 to 4 feet of storm surge along the coast with an additional 2 to 8 inches of rain.
In fact, the situation is already looking so dire for a midweek landfall on the Florida panhandle that Governor Rick Scott has preemptively declared states of emergency in numerous counties while suspending his own Senate campaign to warn residents of impending danger.
Michael will move across the eastern Gulf of Mexico Tuesday and Tuesday night, is expected to move inland over the Florida Panhandle or Florida Big Bend area on Wednesday, and then move northeastward across the southeastern United States Wednesday night and Thursday.
The Atlantic hurricane season officially runs through November 30, and it looks like Florida may be about to get socked with at least one more. The hurricane was predicted to dump up to 12 inches (30 cm) of rain with life-threatening flash flooding, according to forecasters.More news: Robert Kirkman's Skybound Label Set to Finish Telltale's The Walking Dead
"Do not take a chance on storm surge", Scott said.
Early Monday afternoon, Michael was centered about 20 miles off the western tip of Cuba and about 600 miles south of Tallahassee, Florida.
According to the hurricane center, one potential impact from a Category 3 hurricane is that "electricity and water will be unavailable for several days to weeks after the storm passes". But it rapidly intensified, and its top winds clocked in at 60 miles per hour (95 kph) by late Sunday evening.
Maximum sustained winds have increased to near 75 miles per hour with higher gusts, the National Hurricane Center said.More news: McConnell: Kavanaugh fight will help Republicans in November
The National Hurricane Center has issued a Hurricane Watch from the Alabama-Florida line eastward to the Suwanee River, Florida.
Forecasters have warned residents along the northeastern and central US Golf Coast to monitor the storm's progress.
"The main hazards will be gusty winds, flooding and isolated tornadoes", the National Weather Service's Hazardous Weather Outlook for South Florida said at 11 a.m. Monday. In Mexico, a Tropical Storm Warning has been issued for coastal areas from Tulum to Cabo Catoche, including Cozumel.
"If you are electricity dependent, we would encourage you to make some decisions around where you want to ride out this storm", said Gillum.More news: Hope Hicks: Trump's ex-adviser joins Fox
The storm was expected to move into the Gulf of Mexico, where very warm water temperatures and favorable atmospheric conditions were expected to fuel its strength, Robbie Berg, a hurricane specialist at the Miami-based storm forecasting hub, wrote in an advisory.
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