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Forecasters say Michael has strengthening into a major hurricane with winds of 120 miles per hour (190 kph). "It's expected to become a Category 3 storm - a major hurricane".

Michael's potential of more than 6' of water in some of these areas is the reasoning behind the National Weather Service's storm surge warning and subsequent evacuations of low-lying areas of northern Florida. Wind speed will fluctuate and the path will not be a straight line.

Only three major hurricanes Category 3 or higher have struck the Panhandle since 1950: Eloise in 1975, Opal in 1995 and Dennis in 2005. Heavy rainfall it produces could cause flash flooding from the Florida Panhandle and Big Bend region into portions of Georgia, the Carolinas, and southeast Virginia. Even if it is a category 2 or a category 1, millions of people will deal with it.

Mandatory evacuation orders were issued on Monday for residents in various areas in Florida's Gulf and Bay counties, according to a statement from county emergency officials.

Worry over Hurricane Michael has also postponed the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Commission's highly anticipated hearings into the high school massacre scheduled for this week, as many of those on the commission live in the panhandle. Maximum sustained winds have climbed to 90 miles per hour and the central pressure remains at 970 millibars.

Michael is now a Category 1 hurricane, packing maximum sustained winds of 140 kilometers per hour as of late Monday, the Miami-based National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.

"That means the water will come miles in shore and could easily be over the roofs of houses", Scott said.

In Alabama, Troy University and Wallace Community College in the southeastern part of the state canceled Wednesday classes.

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It was forecast to have the power to uproot trees, block roads and knock out power for days by the time it hits Florida on Wednesday. A hurricane warning was issued from the Alabama-Florida border eastwards to Suwannee River.

Carpenter said conditions could "start deteriorating" in Beaufort County late Tuesday at the earliest, but effects would be more likely Wednesday or Thursday. The area from Navarre, Florida, to Anna Maria Island was also placed under a storm surge watch.

A Tropical Storm Watch is in effect for.

"It's closer to Africa than the Lesser Antilles right now", Bridges said. "As you get into the Big Bend area, this is going to be bad for those folks". "And then you're riding it out in your vehicle instead of something else".

For us, we need to be on guard for Thursday.

"If you live along the coast and were told to evacuate...this is YOUR LAST CHANCE". "I am concerned about the cone of uncertainty as Hurricane Michael is leaning west today".

A state of emergency was declared in 35 counties - including Escambia and Santa Rosa.