Florida Braces Itself as Hurricane Michael Gathers Strength

October 8, 2018, 1:29 PM UTC

Hurricane season 2018 isn’t slowing down just yet.

The Florida Panhandle is on alert as Hurricane Michael works its way to the northern part of the Sunshine State. The storm, with maximum sustained winds of 75 mph, is expected to become a major hurricane by Tuesday night.

Hurricane watches have been issued for the Alabama-Florida border, meaning hurricane conditions are expected within the next 48 hours as the storm continues to rapidly intensify.

Michael is currently centered about 140 miles east northeast of Cozumel and 50 miles south of the western tip of Cuba, and it is expected to work its way into the Gulf of Mexico, where warm waters will make the storm much stronger.

The storm is expected to be a Category 2 when it makes landfall, according to the National Hurricane Center, though forecasters haven’t ruled out the possibility of it being a Category 3 storm. Florida has already declared an emergency in 26 counties.

Florida will take the initial impact of the storm, but it will continue through Georgia and the Carolinas, bringing rains and possible high winds to some southern cities. (Forecasters in the Carolinas say the storm will not simply be a rain event by the time it reaches those states.)

Hurricane season ends November 30, but mid-October is marked by anniversaries for some of the most devastating storms on record. In 2016, Hurricane Matthew brought winds and flooding to North Carolina, killing 603 people. And in 2012, Superstorm Sandy devastated the Northeast, causing more than $50 billion in damage.