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Florida comes under a hurricane watch as Michael rapidly strengthens

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Storms most likely path spares La., but forecasters urge caution

The forecast indicates Michael may be a Category 3 hurricane - with winds from 111 to 129 miles per hour - when it strikes. Many trees will be snapped or uprooted, blocking numerous roads. He also activated 500 Florida Guard troops ahead of the storm and has a further 5,000 on standby. The center of the storm is forecast to make landfall somewhere between Pensacola and the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge.

Michael battered parts of Mexico and Cuba with powerful winds and drenching rains on Sunday and into early Monday as it churned in the Caribbean. It has the potential to undergo rapid intensification when it enters the Gulf before turning northeast towards Florida.

Satellite-derived wind data indicate that the maximum sustained winds have increased to near 35 miles per hour (55 km/h) with higher gusts. A Category 1 hurricane has sustained winds of 74 to 95 miles per hour.

The storm will be moving at a steady clip, so it is unlikely to produce the type of extreme rainfall that Hurricane Florence did.

In its most recent advisory Monday, the Hurricane Center upgraded Michael from a tropical storm when maximum sustained winds were recorded at 75 miles per hour with higher gusts.

Chatham Emergency Management Agency has entered OPCON 4 and is monitoring Tropical Storm Michael.

According to the National Hurricane Center, steady to rapid strengthening is forecast during the next day or so, and Michael is forecast to become a major hurricane by Tuesday or Tuesday night. Severe storms and possible tornadoes will be possible over parts of the state along Michael's path. On average, the Atlantic would have about five hurricanes by October 8. Scott said the storm could turn into a Category 2 hurricane by the time it makes landfall midweek.

Scott says: "This storm will be life-threatening and extremely risky".

Over the weekend, Governor Scott urged Floridians to get ready now if they haven't already done so.

"Do not take a chance on storm surge", Scott said.

A news release from the Governor's office stated that declaring a state of emergency ensures that state and local governments have ample time, resources and flexibility to prepare for the storm.

It also issued a Storm Surge Watch from Navarre, in the Florida Panhandle, to Anna Maria Island.

► TIMELINE | How will Hurricane Michael affect Georgia? The storm is most likely to make a direct strike on Florida's Gulf Coast, but coastal Alabama and MS also may deal with direct storm effects and should monitor forecasts.

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