Michael upgraded to a Category 3 major hurricane with 120 miles per hour winds

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"Michael could develop into a potentially catastrophic event for the northeastern Gulf coast", the National Weather Service office in Tallahassee wrote in Monday afternoon's forecast.

By 5 p.m. Monday, Michael's top sustained winds were around 80 miles per hour (129 kph) as it headed north at 9 miles per hour (14.5 kph).

Michael is forecast to produce life-threatening flash flooding from the Panhandle and Big Bend through portions of the Carolinas through Thursday, with 10 inches of rain forecast across parts of the Panhandle. The storm is expected to hit the Florida Panhandle within the next day with winds of nearly 130 miles per hour, along with 12-foot-high storm surge and heavy rain that will drench its way into the Carolinas.

As hurricanes are subject to change forecasts, especially while the storm is still a few days from the area, continue to follow The Sumter Item online at https://www.theitem.com for information updated throughout the day.

"If you're responsible for a patient, you're responsible for the patient".

Scott on Sunday issued an order for a state of emergency for 26 counties to rush preparations in the Panhandle and the Big Bend area, freeing up resources and activating 500 members of the Florida National Guard ahead of Tropical Storm Michael.

"We are running out of time", the Republican governor said on Twitter.

Wind shear will remain the only deterrent to the strength of Michael prior to landfal.

In Alabama, where residents may see massive power outages, high winds and heavy rain, Gov. Kay Ivey issued a state of emergency statewide.

Michael packed winds of 120 miles per hour (195 kilometers per hour) as it aimed for the Florida Panhandle, the finger-shaped strip of land on the Gulf of Mexico. The system has now graduated to Category 2 hurricane status and is expected to reach Category 3 (with winds in excess of 110 mph) when it makes its US mainland landfall on Wednesday afternoon.

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

In a Facebook post Monday, the Wakulla County Sheriff's Office said no shelters would be open because Wakulla County shelters were rated safe only for hurricanes with top sustained winds below 111 miles per hour.

Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum canceled campaign events in South Florida on Monday and Tuesday to prepare for the storm, his campaign said. "There's nothing between us and this storm but warm water' and I think that's what terrifies us about the potential impacts".

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

"Tomorrow we will start seeing the effects of Michael and those in its path will need to take shelter by tomorrow evening", the governor said in a press release. Forecasters also warned spinoff tornadoes would also be a threat.

That's when Maryland could see the first remnants of the storm.

In Alabama, the entire state was under an emergency declaration.

"This storm can kill you".

"I haven't made up my mind yet, but I know some of my staff are going", said Dave Trepanier, owner of Firefly, a restaurant a block from the beach in Panama City, Bay County, an area where the hurricane is expected to come ashore.

A hurricane warning was in effect for a more than 300-mile (480-km) stretch of coastline from the Florida-Alabama border to the Suwannee River in Florida.

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