On Monday and Tuesday, the storm has taken advantage of low wind shear-allowing it to maintain a tight circulation and organized vertical structure-as well as warm, late-summer waters in the Gulf of Mexico to intensify.
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 risky storm heading their way. A hurricane watch is in effect for coastal Alabama and a tropical storm watch is in effect for coastal Mississippi.
"Hurricane Michael is forecast to be a Category 3 storm when it makes landfall and the impact could be devastating".
A year ago saw a string of catastrophic storms batter the western Atlantic - including Irma, Maria and Hurricane Harvey - causing a record-equalling $125bn in damage when it flooded the Houston metropolitan area.
Michael is the seventh hurricane of the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season.
Mandatory evacuations were ordered in coastal and low-lying areas along the Panhandle, including at least four counties and parts of Panama City.
A hurricane warning is in effect from the Suwannee River on Florida's Gulf Coast west to the Alabama / Florida line.
While the storm loomed over the Gulf of Mexico on Tuesday, cameras aboard the International Space Station captured views of Hurricane Michael at 12:13pm and 12:50pm ET.
Tropical storm warning issued for Midlands ahead of Hurricane Michael | News & Observer
More than 300 miles of coastline from Mobile, AL, through the Florida Panhandle and Big Bend area are threatened, according to the NHC.
With an officiant standing in front of them, the couple said their vows on the beach as brisk winds brushed them.
The National Hurricane Center in Miami is tracking Tropical Storm Michael, which formed from a tropical depression in the Caribbean Sea on Sunday.
Storm surge warnings were also in place along the Florida and Alabama coasts.
There will be no shelters open in Wakulla County, the sheriff's office warned on Facebook, because they are rated safe only for hurricanes with top sustained winds below 178kmh.
Storm surge from Hurricane Michael is forecast to be higher than 9 feet and up to 12 feet in some areas of the Big Bend region of Florida.
Governor Rick Scott, who has activated 2500 members of the National Guard in response, echoed Mr Knabb's assessment saying that: "Hurricane Michael poses a deadly threat (as the) most destructive storm to hit the Florida panhandle in decades".
Then, as the storm crosses over the Southeast U.S. on Wednesday evening and Thursday, it will weaken.
Michael was packing sustained winds of up to 140km/h late on Monday and gaining strength as it skirted past Cuba's western tip, where it is expected to dump as much as 30cm of rain, potentially triggering flash floods and mudslides in mountain areas. Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey said she fears widespread power outages and other problems would follow.
Farther inland, in the state capital, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, Florida's Democratic nominee for governor, helped people fill sandbags. Local authorities fear power outages and major tree damage from Michael.
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