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LIVE UPDATES: Hurricane Michael continues to gain strength as it churns toward Florida

Gov. Rick Scott orders state of emergency for 35 counties

ORLANDO, Fla. – Here's the latest on Hurricane Michael, which is expected to strike Florida as a Category 3 storm.

Watch News 6 and stay with ClickOrlando.com for updates.

MONDAY

11 p.m.

As of 11 p.m., Hurricane Michael was moving toward the north at about 12 mph.

A northward to north-northwestward motion at a slightly faster forward speed is expected through Tuesday night, weather officials said.

On the forecast track, the center of Michael will continue to move over the southeastern Gulf of Mexico, then head across the eastern Gulf of Mexico on Tuesday and Tuesday night.

The center of Michael is expected to move inland over the Florida Panhandle or Florida Big Bend area Wednesday, and then go northeastward across the southeastern U.S. on Wednesday night and Thursday.

Reports from the two aircraft indicate that maximum sustained winds have increased to near 90 mph, with higher gusts. Steady to rapid strengthening is forecast during the next day or so, and Michael is expected to become a major hurricane by Tuesday night.

8 p.m.

A hurricane hunter plane reports Michael has gotten a little stronger as it moves off of the western tip of Cuba.

By 8 p.m. Monday, Michael's top sustained winds were around 85 mph (140 kph) as it headed north at 12 mph (19 kph).

The National Hurricane Center says the storm is centered about 60 miles (100 kilometers) off the western tip of Cuba, and about 485 miles (785 kilometers) south of Apalachicola, Florida. Hurricane-force winds extend out up to 35 miles (55 kilometers) and tropical-storm-force winds outward about 175 miles (280 kilometers).

Forecasters at the Miami center say Michael is expected to strengthen quickly and become a major hurricane by Tuesday night. Landfall is expected Wednesday on Florida's northeast Gulf Coast.

7:20 p.m.

Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan warned residents during a news conference Monday evening that first responders won't be able to reach them during the storm or immediately after.

"If you decide to stay in your home and a tree falls on your house or the storm surge catches you and you're now calling for help, there's no one that can respond to help you," Morgan said. "That's the criticality of following directions."

7:10 p.m.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott said during a news conference Monday that the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration has reached out to hospitals, nursing homes and other facilities to make sure they're prepared. In the days following Hurricane Irma last year, 14 people died after a South Florida nursing home lost power and air conditioning.

"My expectation is if you're responsible for a patient, you're responsible for the patient. Take care of them," Scott said. "That means you need to make sure that you have backup generation power, or you shouldn't be taking care of the patients. It's as simple as that. So my expectation is everybody gets taken care of."

7 p.m.

Gov. Rick Scott reiterated his warnings Monday evening during a news conference in Escambia County, encouraging residents along the coast to follow any evacuations orders as soon as possible. He specifically pointed to forecasts of 8-12 feet of storm surge that could reach miles in from shore.

"Storm surge is absolutely deadly," Scott said. "Do not think you can survive it."

6:50 p.m.

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum says the rapid rise of Hurricane Michael led city officials to hold a "sobering" discussion about the potential impact the storm will have on the area.

Gillum said Monday that officials initially thought, "we will have outages and it will be inconvenient." He added, "Today it is about life and safety."

He noted that residents in the nearby coastal county of Wakulla were being forced to keep their shelters shut because they aren't built to withstand severe winds that may come with Hurricane Michael.

He said, "There's nothing between us and this storm but warm water and I think that's what terrifies us about the potential impacts."

5:15 p.m.

Gov. Kay Ivey has declared a state of emergency in Alabama as Hurricane Michael takes aim at Gulf coast.

Ivey signed the emergency declaration Monday in anticipation of wide-spread power outages, wind damage and heavy rain associated with the storm.

The hurricane, currently off Cuba's western tip, is expected to make landfall on the Florida panhandle and affect portions of southern Alabama. Some southern Alabama counties were under a tropical storm watch Monday afternoon. High surf warnings were in effect already at the Alabama coast.

The governor's office cautioned that flash flooding and tornadoes are possible with any hurricane.

A hurricane warning was issued from the Alabama-Florida border eastward to Suwannee River.

5 p.m.

Hurricane Michael is gaining strength as it lashes Cuba's western tip and lumbers northward toward the U.S.

The National Hurricane center says the storm is expected to become a major hurricane by Tuesday night. In a Monday afternoon update, forecasters said winds have increased to nearly 80 mph (129 kph) as the storm moves north at nearly 9 mph (14 kph). Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 35 miles (56 kilometers) from the storm's center and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 175 miles (282 kilometers).

The storm was located about 30 miles (48 kilometers) northwest of Cuba's western tip and 520 miles (837 kilometers) south of Apalachicola, Florida.

Hurricane-force winds and strong rain were being felt in Cuba.  A storm surge warning was issued for Florida's Gulf coast from the Okaloosa-Walton County Line to Anclote River.

A hurricane Warning was issued from the Alabama-Florida border eastward to Suwannee River.

3:45 p.m.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott says Hurricane Michael is a "monstrous storm" that has the potential to be devastating to the Florida Panhandle.

Speaking alongside emergency officials in Pasco County, Scott said Monday he's waiving tolls. He also has declared a state of emergency for 35 counties and asked President Donald Trump for assistance ahead of the storm.

The governor warns that storm surge could be as high as 8-10 feet (2.4-3 meters) in some parts of the Panhandle and 2-4 feet (0.6-1.2 meters) in the Tampa Bay area. Scott is urging people along the Gulf Coast to finish their storm preparations Monday evening.

3 p.m.

Three Florida Panhandle counties have issued mandatory evacuation orders ahead of Hurricane Michael's expected landfall.

Residents of barrier islands, mobile homes and low-lying coastal areas in Gulf, Wakulla and Bay counties were ordered to evacuate by late Monday or early Tuesday.

In a Facebook post Monday, the Wakulla County Sheriff's Office said no shelters would be open in Wakulla County because Michael was forecast to become a major hurricane with winds topping 111 mph (178 kph).

The sheriff's office says Wakulla County shelters were rated safe only for hurricanes below that threshold. Residents are being urged to evacuate inland. The sheriff's office says Michael "has the potential to be a historic storm -- please take heed."

2 p.m.

Hurricane Michael is lashing the western tip of Cuba with heavy rainfall and strong winds.

The National Hurricane Center in Miami says Michael's top sustained winds were around 75 mph. The storm was moving north around 7 mph.

The storm was centered about 20 miles off the western tip of Cuba, and about 145 miles east-northeast of Cozumel, Mexico.

Forecasters say Michael will move into very warm waters in the Gulf of Mexico. It could strengthen into a major hurricane with winds topping 111 mph before an expected strike Wednesday on Florida's Panhandle.

Meanwhile, long-lived Tropical Storm Leslie was expected to gradually strengthen over the Atlantic Ocean but was no threat to the U.S. coastline.

11 a.m.

 Michael has become a hurricane as the storm gets ready to move into the Gulf of Mexico.

Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center in Miami say Michael will move over very warm waters and could strengthen into a major hurricane with winds topping 111 mph by Tuesday night.

Michael was lashing western Cuba late Monday morning with heavy rains and strong winds.

According to the hurricane center, Michael's top sustained winds were around 75 mph. The storm was moving north around 7 mph.

The storm was centered about 50 miles off the western tip of Cuba, and about 140 miles east-northeast of Cozumel, Mexico.

Michael is forecast to make landfall by midweek in Florida's Panhandle or Big Bend.

10 a.m.

The director of the National Hurricane Center says Florida's Big Bend could see up to 11 feet of storm surge after Tropical Storm Michael strengthens into a hurricane over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

Ken Graham says the storm's large size, strong winds and heavy rains could produce a lot of flooding, and the shape of this stretch of coastline makes it particularly vulnerable to storm surge.

Water being forced on shore by the storm could get trapped in estuaries and rivers and pushed inland.

According to the forecast, parts of the Tampa Bay area and the western Florida Panhandle also could see up to 4 feet of storm surge.
 

8 a.m.

Tropical Storm Michael's winds increased to 70 mph Monday morning as it nears hurricane strength. 

A Category 1 hurricane requires maximum sustained winds of 74 mph.

Computer models continue to show Michael on a path toward the Florida Panhandle, where it could make landfall as a Category 2 storm.

Central Florida is expected to see up to 4 inches of rain in the coming days as Michael's outer bands whip the region.

5 a.m. 

A tropical storm that rapidly formed southwest of Cuba could become a dangerous Category 2 hurricane by the time of an expected midweek landfall on the Gulf Coast in the Florida Panhandle.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott has issued an order for a state of emergency for 26 counties to rush preparations in the Florida Panhandle and the Big Bend area, freeing up resources and activating 500 members of the Florida National Guard. Scott says: "This storm will be life-threatening and extremely dangerous."

Michael became a tropical storm on Sunday with sustained winds of up to 50 mph (85 kph). But it rapidly intensified, and its top winds clocked in at 60 mph (95 kph) by late Sunday evening. The storm is expected to gain hurricane status by Monday night or Tuesday as its core slowly crawls into the Gulf of Mexico, nearing the Florida Panhandle coast around midweek.

SUNDAY

11 p.m.

Forecasters say Tropical Storm Michael is becoming an increasingly serious threat to Florida's Panhandle though still far off.

The National Hurricane Center in Miami said the tropical storm was crawling north toward the Yucatan Channel off of Mexico late Sunday night and was expected to unload heavy rains on western Cuba in the coming hours. It's expected to then become a hurricane Monday night or Tuesday while crossing the eastern Gulf of Mexico on a forecast track that would reach the Florida Panhandle sometime Wednesday.

Michael could cause life-threatening flash floods and mudslides in parts of western Cuba, forecasts say, with rains of 3-7 inches (7-17 centimeters) expected. Outer rain bands of the storm are expected to also produce total rain totals of 2-4 inches (5-10 centimeters) across the Florida Keys through Tuesday.

At 11 p.m. EDT Sunday, Michael was about 105 miles (165 kilometers) east-southeast of Cozumel, Mexico. It was also about 135 miles (215 kilometers) south-southwest of the western tip of Cuba. The storm has top sustained winds of 60 mph (95 kph) and is moving north at 5 mph (7 kph).

7 p.m.

Forecasters say Tropical Storm Michael has gotten a little stronger and is next expected to dump heavy rains over western Cuba in the coming hours before it makes its way toward the U.S. Gulf Coast.

The National Hurricane Center in Miami says Michael is packing top sustained winds of 60 mph (95 kph) and is about 105 miles (170 kilometers) east-southeast of Cozumel, Mexico. The storm was about 140 miles (230 kilometers) south-southwest of the western tip of Cuba as of Sunday evening. The storm is headed north at 5 mph (7 kph) and forecasters say Michael should become a hurricane in the next few days.

It's a on track expected to move over the eastern Gulf of Mexico late Monday through Tuesday night and approach the northeast U.S. Gulf Coast on Wednesday.

Forecasters are calling on Florida Gulf Coast residents to monitor the storm's approach, warning of the possibility of storm surge, heavy rains and dangerous winds as it approaches the U.S. Southeast.

6:20 p.m.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott says a tropical storm heading for the Florida Panhandle could become a Category 2 hurricane by the time it makes landfall in the middle of the week.

Scott said Sunday that he had issued an order for a state of emergency for 26 counties in the Florida Panhandle and the Big Bend area. He says winds in those areas could reach more than 100 mph (160 kph).

The governor warned that storm surge could affect areas of Florida not in the storm's direct path.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center on Sunday upgraded Michael from a tropical depression to a named tropical storm, saying Michael had winds of up to 50 mph (85 kph).

The storm could strengthen into a hurricane by Monday night or Tuesday as its center moves over the Yucatan Channel, crosses the Gulf of Mexico and nears the Florida Panhandle coast sometime Wednesday.

1:15 p.m.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center says newly named Tropical Storm Michael could strengthen to a hurricane as it heads to the Florida Panhandle.

The hurricane center on Sunday upgraded the tropical depression in the Caribbean to a named tropical storm, saying it had winds of up to 40 mph (65 kph).

The hurricane center advised residents along the northeastern and central U.S. Gulf Coast to monitor the storm's progress.

The storm was about 90 miles (145 kilometers) south of Cozumel, Mexico by mid-day Sunday.

A tropical storm warning was in effect for the Cuban provinces of Pinar del Rio and the Isle of Youth as well as the coast of Mexico from Tulum to Cabo Catoche.

9:50 a.m.

Forecasters say a tropical depression in the Caribbean could strengthen over the next several days and become a hurricane by midweek.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said Sunday that the tropical depression could strengthen into a hurricane by Tuesday night or Wednesday.

The hurricane center advised residents along the northeastern and central U.S. Gulf Coast to monitor the storm's progress.

The storm was about 100 miles (165 kilometers) northeast of Chetumal, Mexico early Sunday, and it was moving toward the north at about 3 mph (4.8 kph) with maximum sustained winds at 35 mph (56.3 kph).

A tropical storm warning was in effect for the Cuban provinces of Pinar del Rio and the Isle of Youth as well as the coast of Mexico from Tulum to Cabo Catoche.