"Monstrous" Hurricane Michael eyeing Florida's Gulf Coast

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"Hurricane conditions are expected within the hurricane warning area along the U.S. Gulf Coast by Wednesday, with tropical storm conditions expected by tonight or early Wednesday".

Hurricane Michael is continuing to strengthen, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center's (NHC) latest 11 a.m. update on October 9.

Michael was packing sustained winds of up to 85 miles per hour (140 kph) and gaining strength as it skirted past Cuba's western tip en route to a likely Wednesday landfall as the most powerful storm to strike the Florida Panhandle in at least a decade. Following Hurricane Irma a year ago, 14 people died when a South Florida nursing home lost power and air conditioning.

Forecasters say the storm could dump as much as 30 centimeters of rain in western Cuba, triggering life-threatening flash floods and mudslides.

If you live in the region Hurricane Michael will be passing through, you can check the latest forecasts and warnings at NOAA's National Hurricane Center. The Florida Panhandle, southeast Alabama, and southern Georgia will see 4 to 8 inches of rain, with isolated areas facing up to 12 inches, the National Hurricane Center said.

"This storm will be life-threatening and extremely risky", Scott said at a news conference Sunday. A Tropical Storm watch is in effect for from Chassahowitzka to Anna Maria Island and Tampa Bay.

Many are located in the coastal town of Port St. Joe, the county's largest municipality, lying directly in the hurricane's projected path, she said.

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

Drawing energy from the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico with every passing hour, the storm was expected to blow ashore around midday Wednesday near Panama City Beach, along a lightly populated stretch of fishing villages and white-sand spring-break beaches.

Rick Scott, the governor of Florida, warned it could bring "total devastation" to parts of the southern U.S. state.

"For everyone thinking they can ride this storm out, I have news for you: that will be one of the biggest mistakes you can make in your life". Hurricane-force winds extended outward up to 40 miles (64 kilometers) from the core and tropical-storm-force winds out 195 miles (313.81 kilometers). "That means the water will come miles in shore and could easily be over the roofs of houses", Scott said.

Shortly before midnight on Monday, Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner, who works for Republican Gov. Rick Scott, told local election supervisors that if their offices were closed on Tuesday than they could accept paper applications on the day that their office reopens. By Friday (Oct. 12), the storm will make its way out over the northern Atlantic, NOAA is now predicting.

"Think about what we've seen before with storms like Hurricane Irma", he said.

Hurricane Michael in the Caribbean could have also contributed.

According to an alert published by the Cuban Civil Defense, meteorologists warned affected residents that they could experience hurricane-force winds. High surf warnings were in effect already at the Alabama coast.

Speaking alongside emergency officials in Pasco County, Scott said Monday he's waiving tolls.

The governor has declared states of emergency for Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, Walton, Holmes, Washington, Bay, Jackson, Calhoun, Gulf, Gadsden, Liberty, Franklin, Leon, Wakulla, Jefferson, Madison, Taylor, Hamilton, Suwannee, Lafayette, Dixie, Columbia, Gilchrist, Levy, Citrus, Pasco, Hernando, Pinellas, Hillsborough, Manatee, Alachua, Union, Bradford and Baker counties. Exxon said it did not expect the staff reduction to affect output.

Forecasters say Hurricane Michael will strengthen into a major hurricane by late Tuesday as it continues on a risky path towards the southeastern USA state of Florida.

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