Michael upgraded to a hurricane

Courtesy MGN

Courtesy MGN

Once the storm moves onto land, it will start to slow down and will most likely be significantly weaker than it is now, Steve Pfaff, warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Wilmington, said.

Michael became a hurricane Monday morning, according to the National Hurricane Center. The rains in Cuba's west were expected to begin Sunday night and continue Monday.

Having lived in Florida for the last 20 years, Richard said he is taking all necessary precautions.

"Any way you look at it, we'll get rain from this system to some degree", Orrock said, adding as time moves on, the storm's track will become more clear. Fong, who lives in Miami, said he has stocked up on essentials and is keeping abreast of news on Michael.

The hurricane warning stretches from Pensacola, Fla., eastward to near Cedar Key in the bend of Florida Panhandle. (The 11am ET forecast on Monday from the National Hurricane Center calls for 120mph winds for Michael at landfall).

A tropical storm watch has been issued from the Suwannee River in the Big Bend, south to Anna Maria Island, just south of Tampa Bay.

"Life-threatening storm surge is possible along portions of the Florida Gulf Coast regardless of the storm's exact track or intensity", the center said. Elsewhere, outer rain bands from Michael are expected to produce total rain accumulations of 2 to 4 inches across the Florida Keys through Tuesday.

As forecast, Michael would be the first Category 3 or higher hurricane to hit the Panhandle since Hurricane Dennis in 2005.

"While the impacts are still uncertain, our area could experience increased wind activity and heavy rainfall, which could cause localized flooding and downed trees", Tallahassee officials said in a statement.

According to ABC News, the storm is around 120 miles east-northeast of Cozumel, Mexico, and its maximum sustained wind speeds have reached up to 70 mph. A Storm Surge Watch has also been issued from Navarre, Florida to Anna Maria Island, including Tampa Bay.

The current forecast would bring Michael into the region as a moderate to strong tropical storm. Michael was now a Category 1 hurricane, at the bottom of the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale.

Michael, which formed near the Yucatan Peninsula on Sunday, is expected to dump 4 to 8 inches of rain - and as much as 12 inches in some areas - on western Cuba before it hits the United States. However, Fanara said, Michael's strong winds also could stir up pollution and nutrients in the water that feed algae blooms.

Once Michael makes landfall, it is expected to move northeastward across the Florida panhandle into southern Georgia. The storm has increased from winds of 35 miles per hour on Sunday to 75 miles per hour by late Monday morning.

"Persons located within these areas should take all necessary actions to protect life and property from rising water and the potential for other risky conditions".

Here is the NHC's forecast bubble for the storm ...

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