Evacuations ordered as Hurricane Michael speeds toward Florida

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The storm is strengthening and expected to hit the Florida Gulf Coast as a unsafe major hurricane Wednesday, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Mandatory evacuation orders were issued on Monday for residents in various areas in Florida's Gulf and Bay counties, according to a statement from county emergency officials.

The National Hurricane Center has warned that a "life-threatening" storm surge is likely to strike the Panhandle.

Data from an Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter aircraft indicate that maximum sustained winds have increased to near 75 miles per hour with higher gusts.

The Department of Foreign Affairs on Tuesday said it has alerted Filipinos in 5 southeastern U.S. states to prepare for Hurricane Michael, forecast to crash ashore midweek as a major Category 3 storm.

In the Washington DC region we are expecting the remnants of Michael to combine with an approaching cold front to bring us rain here late Wednesday night though Thursday.

4 P.M. Hurricane warnings are now up between the Alabama-Florida state line and the Suwannee River as Hurricane Michael continues moving north at a slightly higher forward speed and 80 miles per hour winds.

Escambia through Franklin counties in Northwest Florida are included in the hurricane watch.

More news: Hurricane Michael to send significant swell to Gulf, then potentially East Coast

"We can take quite a bit of rain, but the folks in the Carolinas can't right now", Orrock said.

"Additional strengthening is forecast, and Michael is expected to become a hurricane later today".

Florida Gov. Rick Scott has declared a state of emergency for 35 counties, a move that frees up resources for storm preparation and activates 500 members of the Florida National Guard. A hurricane warning was issued from the Alabama-Florida border eastwards to Suwannee River.

A Tropical Storm Watch is in effect for.

While the NWS says Hurricane Michael will make landfall in Florida as a "major hurricane", it also predicts it will weaken as it moves through the Southeast on Wednesday night and Thursday. Two days from now, forecasts project it will be a major hurricane (category three or stronger) bearing down on the gulf coast of Florida.

While Michael remained a tropical storm throughout the weekend, the system reached hurricane status on Monday as a Category 1 with nowhere left to go but up. The National Hurricane Center calls it "an extremely unsafe category 4 hurricane", and news media in the state were already posting photos showing significant damage soon after the storm came ashore.

Some southern Alabama counties were under a tropical storm watch, and high surf warnings were in effect on the coast. Residents are being urged to evacuate inland.

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