'Monstrous hurricane' Michael treks toward Florida

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Florida Governor Rick Scott declared a state of emergency for the Panhandle and Big Bend areas on Sunday.

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 (178 kph).

"We expect less rain to fall when compared to Florence", said AccuWeather senior meteorologist Dan Kottlowski.

Category four hurricanes cause catastrophic wind damage and hold sustained winds speeds between 130 and 156 miles per hour.

By early Tuesday, Michael's top sustained winds had risen some to 90 miles per hour (144 kph) as it headed north at 12 miles per hour (19 kph).

Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum canceled campaign events in South Florida on Monday and Tuesday to prepare for the storm, his campaign said.

Hurricane Michael strengthened into a Category 4 storm as it moved toward the Florida Panhandle, where it could blow ashore as the strongest storm to hit the United States this year. A hurricane watch is in effect for coastal Alabama and a tropical storm watch is in effect for coastal Mississippi. From Navarre, westward to the Baldwin County line, a Storm Surge Watch covers that area.

Hurricane Michael would be the first major hurricane to hit the panhandle since Hurricane Dennis in 2005, which made landfall near Pensacola, according to hurricane centre data. Monday, it became the seventh hurricane of 2018 in the Atlantic Basin.

Scott warned that Michael could reach land as a Category 2 hurricane, with winds in excess of 100 miles per hour. "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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Scott has deployed 1,250 Florida National Guard troops with another 4,000 on standby waiting to be called up.

"Everybody's got to get ready". The coastline between Indian Pass and Crystal River could see surges between 8 and 12 feet high, the governor warned. The bloom has spread to Florida's Panhandle and the Miami area.

In Florida, state offices, schools and universities were set to close Tuesday through the end of the week in panhandle counties.

Gov. Kay Ivey has declared a state of emergency in Alabama as Hurricane Michael takes aim at Gulf coast.

Previous year millions of customers across Florida were without power after Hurricane Irma made landfall in the Keys and then again in Collier County before crawling up the spine of the state. Tropical storm warnings are posted for the Isle of Youth in Cuba and the coast of Mexico from Tulum to Cabo Catoche, including Cozumel.

A Tropical Storm Watch is in effect for.

The rainfall could lead to "life-threatening" flash floods and mudslides in mountainous regions, the hurricane center said.

Damaging winds are expected in Florida, southeastern Alabama and southern Georgia.

Forecasters advised residents along the northeastern and central US Gulf Coast to monitor the storm's progress.