Forecasters: Michael quickly closing in on Category 3 hurricane

Forecasters: Michael quickly closing in on Category 3 hurricane

As of 5 a.m. ET Monday, Tropical Storm Michael was centered about 90 miles east of Cozumel, Mexico, the National Hurricane Center said.

Michael, now a Category 2 storm with winds of 110 miles per hour, is expected to become a Category 3 hurricane with 111 miles per hour winds later on Tuesday.

The hurricane, now about 200 miles south-southwest of the state, moved up to category three late on Tuesday as it headed for the Florida Panhandle, the strip of land on the Gulf of Mexico.

Hurricane Michael escalated somewhat quickly. The most probable landfall location is near Panama City, but even less than 24 hours before landfall, the average position error is 30 to 40 miles.

With Florence still in mind, Michael may be making an appearance this week. The governor has also warned that there is a "significant" chance of tornadoes. A hurricane warning is in effect for the Florida Gulf coast from the border of Florida and Alabama to Suwanee River, Florida.

Michael's also expected to dump heavy rainfall along the northeastern Gulf Coast.

Drivers waited in long lines at gas stations and residents hurried to fill sandbags, while tolls were suspended on some roads to aid movement ahead of the storm's landfall.

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper told residents: "I know people are tired from Florence, but don't let this storm catch you with your guard down". Residents in these areas should follow advice given by local officials, and keep tabs on live updates, which are available from CNN.

If you live in the region Hurricane Michael will be passing through, you can check the latest forecasts and warnings at NOAA's National Hurricane Center.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey declared a state of emergency for her state Tuesday because of expected wide-spread power outages and wind damage. The sheriff's office says Michael "has the potential to be a historic storm - please take heed".

Mandatory evacuations are underway for Citrus County residents living in Zone A, or in mobile homes.

National Weather Service Hurricane Michael is expected to make landfall Wednesday along Florida's Panhandle.

After hitting Florida, the storm is forecast to move northeast on Wednesday and Thursday along the Atlantic Coast and batter the Carolinas, which are still recovering from Hurricane Florence last month.

In Gulf County alone, the first to begin ordering residents of low-lying areas to higher ground, mandatory evacuation notices encompassed an estimated 3,800 homes, said Jessica Sasich of the county's emergency operations centre.

In Florida, state offices, schools and universities were set to close on Tuesday through the end of the week in panhandle counties. Forecasters warned of up to 30cm of rain in western Cuba, triggering flash floods and mudslides in mountain areas, and disaster agencies in El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua reported 13 deaths as roofs collapsed and residents were carried away by swollen rivers.

Forecasters said Michael's tropical-storm-force winds stretched 370 miles across, with hurricane-strength winds extending up to 35 miles from the center.

US Rep. Neal Dunn, whose district includes Panama City, urged people under evacuation orders to get out before tropical-storm-force winds arrived.

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