Hurricane Michael is moving north-northwest through the southern Gulf of Mexico with maximum sustained winds near 100 mph. The intensifying storm is likely to make landfall Wednesday as a Category 3 hurricane, and conditions will begin to deteriorate Tuesday night.
The National Weather Service predicted that Michael will become a “large and dangerous hurricane.” The Florida Panhandle, from Pensacola to Apalachicola, and the Big Bend area are the zones of greatest concern.
A tropical storm watch is in effect from Fernandina Beach, Fla., to the South Santee River in South Carolina.
Michael was moving at 12 mph, with a northwest to north motion expected through tonight and a swing to the northeast Wednesday and Thursday. The center of the storm is predicted to continue to move over the Gulf of Mexico today and continue inland over the Florida panhandle on Wednesday. It will then march across the southeastern United States.
The National Hurricane Center is warning of “dangerous storm surge” and high water levels. The highest projected waters are 8 to 12 feet from Indian Pass to Cedar Key in Florida. Cedar Key to the Crystal River is forecast at 6 feet to 8 feet. Tampa Bay could see 2 feet to 4 feet.
Rainfall is expected to peek at 12 inches.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott warned residents to take the storm seriously.