Moving Hurricane Michael menaces Florida Panhandle

Floridians scurried to prepare after Gov. Rick Scott extended a state of emergency to 35 counties and activated 1,250 National Guardsmen for hurricane duty

Weather forecast: PM thunderstorms expected

Hurricane Michael is threatening more than 300 miles of the Gulf Coast, prompting emergency declarations in more than 100 counties from Mobile, Alabama through the Florida Panhandle and into the state's Big Bend region.

Mark Wallheiser via Getty Images People line up for gasoline outside Tallahassee, Florida, on Monday as Hurricane Michael bears down on the northern Gulf coast.

The governor warned the hurricane is expected to strengthen to a Category 3 storm when it makes landfall Wednesday.

Past year saw a string of catastrophic storms batter the western Atlantic - including Irma, Maria and Hurricane Harvey - causing a record-equalling $125 billion in damage when it flooded the Houston metropolitan area.

Secretary of State Ken Detzner announced an extension Tuesday morning that will allow county supervisors to accept paper voter-registration applications when they reopen from the storm.

Hurricane Michael is a "monstrous hurricane" and will deliver a potentially devastating strike to the Florida Panhandle sometime Wednesday, Gov. Rick Scott said. "Residents in these areas should follow all advice given by their local officials", the hurricane center said. A tropical storm watch was also issued for the eastern coasts of Georgia and SC.

For Volusia and Flagler counties, the hurricane's path to the west will bring an increased chance of showers and thunderstorms, with gusty winds on Wednesday and Thursday.

"Guess what? That's today", Graham said.

Interests along the northeastern and central Gulf Coast areas are advised to monitor the progress of Tropical Storm Michael.

"The impact will be storm surge, very heavy rain and strong, gusty winds as it makes landfall", Bridges said.

Hess Corp and Royal Dutch Shell said they were monitoring the storm and would take action as needed.

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The storm was about 220 kilometres east-northwest of Cozumel, Mexico, with maximum sustained winds of winds of 120 kilometres per hour, forecasters said. "That means the water will come miles in shore and could easily be over the roofs of houses", Scott said.

In Florida, Scott declared a state of emergency for 35 counties, from the Panhandle to Tampa Bay, activated hundreds of Florida National Guard members and waived tolls to encourage evacuations. As Michael nears landfall, we're sharing all you need to know about the impending storm.

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

The storm's effects will be felt far from the eye of the hurricane.

While Florence took five days between the time it turned into a hurricane and the moment it blew ashore in the Carolinas, Michael gave Florida what could amount to just two days' notice.

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

"You will see damage to infrastructure, you will see power outages, and services that we are used to will be interrupted due to Hurricane Michael", he said.

Hurricane-force winds and strong rain were being felt in Cuba.

In Florida, state offices, schools and universities were set to close on Tuesday through the end of the week in panhandle counties.

Winds are forecast to reach up to 110-miles-per-hour and some areas are expected to see an eight-to-twelve foot storm surge.

Now ranked as a Category 1 storm on the five-step Saffir-Simpson wind scale, Michael could grow into a Category 3, becoming the second major hurricane in the Atlantic basin this year following Florence last month, forecasters said. Up to four inches (10 centimeters) were expected to fall through Tuesday.

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