Tropical storm Michael strengthened to a Category 1 hurricane Monday as it barrelled toward the US Gulf Coast packing maximum sustained winds of 75 miles per hour, meteorologists said.
The weather system was located between Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula and the west coast of Cuba by 1500 GMT and was heading slowly towards the northern Gulf Coast of Florida, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) in Miami said.
It is expected to be a major Category 3 hurricane by the time it hits Florida on Wednesday, before moving northeast across the southeastern United States through Thursday.
“#Michael could produce three life-threatening hazards along portions of the northeastern Gulf Coast: storm surge, heavy rainfall, and hurricane-force winds, with storm surge and hurricane watches in effect,” the NHC said on Twitter.
“Residents in these areas should follow advice given by local officials.”
Heavy rainfall from Michael could produce “life-threatening flash flooding,” the NHC said, from the Florida Panhandle and Big Bend region into portions of the Carolinas through Thursday.
Florida Governor Rick Scott declared a state of emergency for 26 counties in the region.
“This morning I met with local officials and emergency management professionals in Bay County in preparation for Hurricane Michael,” he tweeted.
“I will be in Pasco County this afternoon to give another briefing. FL families need to get ready for this storm RIGHT NOW.”