'Monstrous' Hurricane Michael forecast to hit Gulf Coast as a major hurricane

'Monstrous' Hurricane Michael forecast to hit Gulf Coast as a major hurricane

Winds in the 40 to 50 miles per hour range will reach the SC border as early as 8 p.m. Wednesday, says the center.

Florida Governor Rick Scott declared a state of emergency for the Panhandle and Big Bend areas on Sunday.

The conditions presented by county officials Monday are subject to change as the storm continues to track closer to Florida's coast.

The National Hurricane Center indicates that Tropical Storm Michael has strengthened and is now Hurricane Michael, centered over the northwest Caribbean Sea. Meanwhile hurricane watches are already in effect for the gulf coast from the Alabama-Florida border all the way to the Suwannee River in Dixie County, Florida.

The Category 1 hurricane, as of 5 p.m. EDT Monday, is forecast to possibly strengthen to a Category 3 with maximum sustained winds topping 111 miles per hour near its center of rotation before reaching the Gulf Coast on Wednesday morning at Panama City Beach, Fla.

The NHC said in a tweet that a "life-threatening" storm surge and flash flooding is likely in areas of the Florida Panhandle and described the storm as "dangerous".

The storm was centered about 20 miles (30 kilometers) off the western tip of Cuba, and about 145 miles (230 kilometers) east-northeast of Cozumel, Mexico. The storm surge watch stretches from Anna Maria Island to Navarre, while the tropical storm watch stretches to the Suwanee River.

"By tonight, a large trough centered over the southwestern United States will cause the hurricane to accelerate northeastward".

At a news conference downtown Monday afternoon, Mayor Lenny Curry said he's been in regular communication with the governor, and emergency operation officials are monitoring the storm, though Michael is not expected to drastically affect Jacksonville.

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. Scott advised Gulf Coast residents to prepare for possible evacuation orders, and he put more than 5,000 National Guard soldiers on alert.

"Do not take a chance on storm surge", Scott said.

Despite Hurricane Michael approaching Florida from the Gulf Coast side, the system is expected to bring rain around the same time the king tide, an astronomical event, is expected, making St. Augustine more vulnerable to flooding.

"Areas hit hard by Florence may face disruptions to ongoing cleanup efforts or renewed flooding depending on the track of the storm", an update from AccuWeather warned.

Energy companies halted almost a fifth of Gulf of Mexico oil production and evacuated staff from 10 platforms on Monday as Michael was forecast to become the strongest of three named storms to affect the U.S. Gulf of Mexico this year.

Chris Holcomb and the 11Alive Storm Trackers team will have full coverage all week of Tropical Storm Michael and bring you full details on what sort of effects it will have on our weather in and across the state of Georgia.