Hurricane Michael strengthens to Category 2 and takes aim at north Florida

Hurricane Michael European model

Michael was forecast to push through warm, relatively shallow Gulf of Mexico waters before moving inland over the northern Gulf coast of Florida.

U.S. oil prices ended mostly flat as traders discounted any long-term effect on output by the storm, projected to be the first major hurricane to enter the U.S. Gulf this year.

Hurricane Michael will make landfall along the Gulf Coast Wednesday as a Category 3 storm, according to the National Hurricane Center.

A year ago 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.

A hurricane hunter plane investigating the storm Tuesday morning found that Michael's eye had become less organized.

During a briefing Tuesday, Scott said the state's emergency response center is now active and includes a 24-hour response hotline.

Hurricane Michael is headed straight for Florida's Panhandle and is expected to make landfall there sometime on Wednesday.

"This storm will be life-threatening and extremely risky", Scott said on Sunday. "Residents in these areas should follow all advice given by their local officials", the hurricane center said. A Tropical Storm watch is in effect for from Chassahowitzka to Anna Maria Island and Tampa Bay.

The expected path for Hurricane Michael as of October 9, 2018.

Volusia County Beach Safety secured non-essential equipment off of the beach due to the predicted wind and swell, said spokeswoman Captain Tamara Malphurs.

The NHC warned that the waves and rain could trigger deadly flooding, and that residents within the hurricane warning zone should likewise "prepare for life-threatening winds".

Michael was packing sustained winds of up to 140km/h late on Monday and gaining strength as it skirted past Cuba's western tip, where it is expected to dump as much as 30cm of rain, potentially triggering flash floods and mudslides in mountain areas.

Hurricane Michael could bring heavy rain and high winds to parts of Maryland later this week, but extreme flooding did not pose an enormous risk to most of the state as of Monday, according to the National Weather Service. "You need to take care of yourselves".

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The storm has maximum sustained winds of 120 miles per hour.

Tolls have been lifted in Northwest Florida to ease evacuation, and Scott said fuel distribution is being watched, though there haven't been "widespread fuel shortages or outages".

Although the forecast could change, there is no indication that the storm will deteriorate before making landfall.

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

Alexander Charnicharo fishes at the seafront in Havana as Hurricane Michael passes by western Cuba on October 8, 2018.

Snapper Tams, a passenger on the Royal Caribbean ship, posted video footage of stormy seas, heavy rain, and harsh winds near the ship.

Michael is also predicted to be the strongest hurricane based on wind speed to hit continental United States landfall this year.

Forecasters said parts of Florida's marshy, lightly populated Big Bend area - the crook of Florida's elbow - could see up to 12 feet of storm surge.

Kemp said the bill totaled over $800 when she and her family fled Hurricane Irma's uncertain path past year.

Hurricane Michael will be a major hurricane when it arrives at the Florida coast sometime Wednesday, the National Hurricane Center says.

Some 120,000 people people have been warned to evacuate along Florida's coast, where schools and state offices are to remain shut this week.

He said, "There's nothing between us and this storm but warm water and I think that's what terrifies us about the potential impacts".

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