It's now Hurricane Michael and it's hitting Cuba

Michael has undergone a period of "rapid Intensification" - defined as an increase of sustained winds of 35 mph in a 24-hour period.

A hurricane warning is in effect for the Cuban province of Pinar del Rio and tropical storm warnings are posted for the Isle of Youth in Cuba and the coast of Mexico from Tulum to Cabo Catoche, including Cozumel.

Scott warned that Michael could reach land as a Category 2 hurricane with winds in excess of 100 miles per hour.

The National Hurricane Center says Michael is now a hurricane and will continue to strengthen as it approaches US. From there, the storm will quickly move northeastward into the Carolinas by Thursday.

"If this storm hits near Panama City, the Tampa area will still see life threatening storm surge", Scott said.

Starting Wednesday, rainfall from Hurricane Michael will touch down in the greater-Wilmington area, according to the National Weather Service's latest briefing. Tropical Storm Watches have been issued for coastal areas westward to the Alabama-Mississippi border and for inland areas of Florida, Alabama and Georgia.

A storm surge warning - meaning risky flooding could strike in the next 36 hours - is in effect for a long swath of Florida's coast, from the Okaloosa-Walton county line east of Pensacola to the Anclote River, just north of Tampa Bay.

"According to Tampa meteorologist Denis Phillips, the city "[isn't] completely out of the woods", despite the latest track update showing a shift to the west.

A storm is designated a Category 1 hurricane if it reaches speeds of 74 miles per hour (119 kph) or more, and a Category 3 hurricane at 111 miles per hour (178 kph) or more on the five-step Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale.

An Air Force hurricane hunter airplane was sent into the storm to investigate, the hurricane centre said.

"So dependent on where that eye is, is going to make a determination on what we're going to see in wind, rain and surge as it goes up", Litschauer said. Locally ordered evacuations of thousands of homes have begun, with 1,250 National Guard soldiers aiding the process and over 4,000 troops on standby, Scott tweeted. Michael has strenghtened swiftly into a category 1 hurricane.

It's expected to move over the Yucatan Channel and then crosses the Gulf of Mexico, nearing the Florida Panhandle coast by Wednesday.

On Sunday, a tropical storm formed in the northern Caribbean Sea. Interests along the northeastern and central U.S. Gulf coast should monitor the progress of Michael.

The hurricane center warned that the storm could produce up to a foot (30 centimeters) of rain in western Cuba, potentially triggering flash floods and mudslides in mountainous areas. "We all saw the damage Hermine did to the neighborhoods in its path just two years ago and Tropical Storm Michael is forecast to have similar impacts", Governor Scott said on Sunday.

  • Anthony Vega