Forecasters: Michael quickly closing in on Category 3 hurricane

Forecasters: Michael quickly closing in on Category 3 hurricane

Mark Wallheiser via Getty Images People line up for gasoline outside Tallahassee, Florida, on Monday as Hurricane Michael bears down on the northern Gulf coast.

A hurricane watch is in effect for coastal Alabama and a tropical storm watch is in effect for coastal Mississippi.

The speed of the storm - Michael was moving north at 12 miles per hour - gave many people a dwindling window of time to prepare or flee before the arrival of damaging wind, rain, and flooding.

Michael is moving north at 12mph and, after hitting Florida, it is expected to move up the east coast on Wednesday and Thursday, into North and SC.

Now ranked as a category-1 storm on the five-step Saffir-Simpson wind scale, Michael could grow into a category-3 storm, with the power to uproot trees, block roads and knock out power for days by the time it hits Florida on Wednesday.

Emergency officials in both counties and statewide are closely watching the hurricane. Hurricane force winds extend about 80 miles around the storm with tropical storm force winds spreading across almost 400 miles.

Forecasters say some regions may see 12in (30cm) of rain, and storm surges of up to 12ft (3.6m).

"It's been dry for the last couple of weeks, so there's plenty of places for that to run off to", he said. A shift eastward would not. "Take care of them", Scott said.

"I've been talking to mayors, to county commissioners, I think people are taking this serious", Scott said.

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In Volusia County, emergency management director Jim Judge said residents are looking at "breezy conditions, some rain and potentially a couple of good gusts through the squalls".

The storm's steady intensification over the past two days, despite shifting winds, "defies traditional logic" according to the agency. Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 35 miles (56 kilometers) from the storm's center and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 175 miles (282 kilometers). "I live four to five blocks from the water, so I'm scared", said Tessa Whitaker, who lives in Carabelle, a city on St. George Sound about an hour southwest of Tallahassee.

"I know people are tired from Florence", Cooper said at a press briefing Tuesday morning.

He noted that residents in the nearby coastal county of Wakulla were being forced to keep their shelters shut because they aren't built to withstand severe winds that may come with Hurricane Michael.

"Regardless of the eventual track and intensity of Michael, life-threatening storm surge inundation is expected along portions of the Florida Panhandle and Big Bend/Nature Coast, and the storm surge watch has been upgraded to a storm surge warning for parts of this area", the center said.

The National Hurricane Center said the storm was moving north-northwestward through the southern Gulf of Mexico, and that storm surge and hurricane warnings were in effect for the northeastern Gulf coast.

Hurricane Michael has strengthened to a Category 2 hurricane.

Scott declared a state of emergency for 35 Florida counties from the Panhandle to Tampa Bay, activated hundreds of Florida National Guard members and waived tolls to encourage those near the coast to evacuate inland. Volusia and Flagler counties were not included in that declaration.

Michael is not expected to be a reprise of Florence, which pummeled the state for several days, producing record rainfall and river flooding, and has been blamed on 40 deaths in the state. Add Hurricane Michael as an interest to stay up to date on the latest Hurricane Michael news, video, and analysis from ABC News.

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