UPDATES: Major Hurricane Michael set to get even stronger

Our Severe Weather Center team of meteorologists is tracking Hurricane Michael, which is expected to make landfall by Wednesday and spread into the Charlotte area later this week.

***Scroll below for minute-by-minute updates as the storm approaches the U.S.***

Latest Michael outlook:

  • Hurricane Michael is a major Category 3 hurricane with top winds of 120 mph.
  • Hurricane force winds extend out about 50 miles from the center
  • Tropical storm force winds extend out over 150 miles
  • Landfall is forecast along the Florida Panhandle near Panama City early Wednesday afternoon
  • It will accelerate as it pushes northeast toward the Carolinas.
  • The closest approach will be Thursday afternoon just south and east of the Metro
  • We will be close enough that we will see winds to 40-plus mph (especially south and east of Charlotte)
  • 3-5" of rain (more south and east)
  • The storm will quickly push out Thursday evening and usher in some great weather for the weekend

>> Reporter Dave Faherty is positioned along the Gulf Coast as Hurricane Michael comes ashore -- follow him on Twitter for real-time updates.

>> Even when not on air, our meteorologists are tracking Michael -- which has strengthened to a Category 3 hurricane -- as it heads towards the Florida Panhandle. Download our weather app for pinpoint impacts where you live.

>> We'll have team coverage from all angles to get you ready for Michael's likely impact on the Carolinas, on Eyewitness News.

>> Click PLAY below to watch the latest Channel 9 forecast update on Hurricane Michael

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Minute-by-minute developments on Hurricane Michael:

11 p.m.

Major Hurricane Michael is still gaining strength and forecast to become a potentially devastating Category 4 storm before making landfall along Florida's northeast Gulf Coast.

The National Hurricane Center in Miami said at 11 p.m. EDT Tuesday that a hurricane hunter plane found Michael's top sustained winds have increased to near 125 mph (205 kph) with higher gusts.

While Michael is now a strong Category 3 major hurricane, forecasters say, it's still strengthening and is expected to become a Category 4 hurricane before it makes landfall Wednesday.

At 11 p.m. EDT, the eye of Michael was about 220 miles (355 kilometers) south-southwest of Panama City, Florida. It also was about 200 miles (325 kilometers) south-southwest of Apalachicola, Florida.


8 p.m.

Forecasters say major Hurricane Michael is better organized and expected to strengthen further and be near a highly dangerous Category 4 strength as it approaches a projected Wednesday landfall in north Florida.

Michael is currently a powerful Category 3 hurricane packing top winds of 120 mph (195 kph). At 8 p.m. EDT Tuesday, the hurricane's eye was located about 255 miles (410 kilometers) south of Panama City, Florida, or about 235 miles (375 kilometers) south-southwest of Apalachicola, Florida. The enormous storm system is moving north across the eastern Gulf of Mexico at 12 mph (19 kph).

The National Hurricane Center in Miami says Michael will push life-threatening storm surge onto parts of the Gulf Coast during the day Wednesday, bringing with it dangerous winds and heavy rains.

Though the storm is expected to weaken once it heads inland over the U.S. Southeast, tropical storm watches and warnings are in place along a stretch of the Atlantic seaboard in a region from northeast Florida to North Carolina.


7:15 p.m.

Authorities in Florida's Citrus County say they've ordered a mandatory evacuation affecting more than 17,000 people along the Gulf Coast as Hurricane Michael approaches.

Also ordered to leave the county Tuesday: anyone staying in an RV, mobile home or manufactured home throughout the county.

Based on the responses of officials in even Florida counties, approximately 279,200 people have been affected by mandatory or voluntary evacuations as they seek to get away from Michael's projected path.

Michael strengthened Tuesday into a potentially devastating major hurricane as it continued its crossing of the eastern Gulf of Mexico. It's headed toward an expected Wednesday landfall on the Florida Panhandle.


5 p.m.

Forecasters say Michael has strengthened into a major hurricane with winds of 120 mph (190 kph).

The National Hurricane Center in Miami says in a Tuesday evening advisory that Michael has become a Category 3 hurricane and is moving north across the Gulf of Mexico at 12 mph (19 kph). The hurricane is about 295 miles (475 kilometers) south of Panama City Beach, Florida.

Michael is expected to continue across the Gulf through the night and move inland over the Florida Panhandle on Wednesday. It is forecast to be a major hurricane at landfall and weaken as it moves across the southeastern U.S.

The hurricane center says some areas could see as much as 13 feet (4 meters) of storm surge and 12 inches (30 centimeters) of rain.


4:45 p.m

As more of Florida's Gulf Coast counties order or recommend evacuation ahead of Hurricane Michael, Gov. Rick Scott is urging residents to leave if local authorities have asked them to do so.

Scott said Tuesday that as many as 50 families on St. George Island were reportedly staying put. St. George Island is a well-known beach community on a barrier island near Apalachicola.

"You cannot hide from storm surge," Scott said. "This storm is deadly. Do not take a chance."

Franklin County Sheriff A.J. Smith says his deputies went door to door in some places along the coast to urge people to evacuate.

Florida officials say that so far nearly 900 people have arrived at 25 shelters in the Panhandle and north central Florida.

Michael is expected to blow ashore around midday Wednesday near Panama City Beach.


3 p.m.

Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center say Hurricane Michael already is pushing storm surge into the Florida Panhandle, hours before the storm's expected landfall.

Storm surge unit chief Jamie Rhome says water levels along the Gulf of Mexico were "much higher" than normal by mid-afternoon Tuesday.

The Okaloosa Sheriff's Office posted images on social media of water creeping up yards and under boat docks of waterfront homes. In Bay County, the sheriff's office posted images of a flooded road under gray skies.

Rhome said data a tide station in Apalachicola showed water levels 1.5 feet (50 centimeters) to 2 feet (60 centimeters) above normal levels.

Rhome said the rising waters will flood low-lying areas, including some roads that may be being used for evacuations.


2 p.m.

Forecasters expect Hurricane Michael to grow stronger still as it crosses the Gulf of Mexico on its way to Florida's Panhandle.

At 2 p.m. Tuesday, the National Hurricane Center said Michael had top sustained winds of 110 mph. That's just below the threshold for a "major" hurricane. Michael was moving north at 12 mph and is expected to bring life-threatening storm surge and heavy rain to the northeastern Gulf Coast.

Officials in Bay County say they have not seen a rush of evacuees clogging roads inland - and that worries them with just hours left before Michael's landfall in the Panhandle.

Bay County Sheriff Tommy Ford said he's "not seeing the level of traffic" he would expect when three-quarters of the county's residents are under mandatory and voluntary evacuation orders.

The hurricane is expected to make landfall Wednesday in Florida before crossing Georgia and the Carolinas as a weaker storm.


1:15 p.m.

Several schools across the South have closed or plan to close in advance of Hurricane Michael.

Many Florida schools, including Florida State University, closed Tuesday and announced they will remain that way until at least Thursday.

Florida State was also inviting its off-campus students, faculty and staff to weather the storm in the building where its basketball teams play.

In Bay County, Florida, where 120,000 people were ordered to evacuate, the school district tweeted that the decision to cancel school wasn't made lightly, but so many families have heeded the warnings to flee.

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

Local news media report that several universities as well as public and private schools in southern and central Georgia would close through at least Thursday.


11:40 a.m

North Carolina's governor says he's afraid Hurricane Michael could slow the recovery for homeowners dealing with wind or flooding from Hurricane Florence.

Gov. Roy Cooper said Tuesday that Michael isn't expected to hit his state as hard as Florence did last month, but people shouldn't let their guard down, even if they're suffering from cleanup fatigue. He said many houses that suffered roof damage in Florence are still covered in tarps and could be vulnerable to strong wind and rain.

Michael is expected to race across the Carolinas late Wednesday and early Thursday, dumping 2 to 5 inches or more of rainfall. Since the ground remains saturated in places, that could mean flash flooding, and trees in wet ground can topple more easily in high winds.

He said that forecasters aren't expecting the same kind of major river flooding caused by Florence, and conditions should improve on Friday.


11 a.m.

Data from hurricane hunter aircraft flying through Hurricane Michael show the storm is still strengthening over the Gulf of Mexico.

At 11 a.m. EDT, the National Hurricane Center said Michael had top sustained winds of 110 mph. That's just below the threshold for a "major" hurricane, and forecasters say they still expect Michael to get stronger.

Michael was moving north at 12 mph. The hurricane is expected to make landfall in Florida's Panhandle or Big Bend on Wednesday before crossing Georgia and the Carolinas as a weaker storm.

The storm's effects will be felt far from the eye of the hurricane. Forecasters said Michael's storm winds stretched 370 miles across, with hurricane-strength winds extending up to 35 miles from the center.


10:50 a.m.

Forecasters say Tropical Storm Nadine has formed over the open Atlantic.

The storm is about 480 miles off the Cabo Verde Islands and is posing no threat to land.

The National Hurricane Center in Miami said Nadine had top sustained winds of 40 mph.

Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Leslie is meandering over the central Atlantic with top sustained winds of 65 mph.


10:30 a.m.

The death toll from Hurricane Florence has increased to a total of 51 as another hurricane now bears down on the southeastern United States.

North Carolina's Office of the Chief Medical Examiner ruled that the death of a 68-year-old man in Onslow County on Sept. 20 was a storm-related fatality. The office says he died of a "natural disease" made worse by storm cleanup. His name wasn't immediately released.

That raises North Carolina's toll to 40. Another 11 deaths in South Carolina and Virginia have been blamed on Florence.

The Carolinas are bracing for more wind and rain on Wednesday from Hurricane Michael, which is churning toward Florida's Gulf Coast and is expected to drive inland after landfall.


9:50 a.m.

Emergency officials across the Carolinas are warning residents to monitor Hurricane Michael, which is expected to move through the region after coming ashore along Florida's Gulf Coast. They're expecting heavy rain, tropical storm-force winds and tornados beginning Wednesday.

South Carolina's emergency management director Kim Stenson said the severity will depend on the storm's intensity after it blows over Florida, Alabama and Georgia. Residents of the Carolinas are still dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, which struck the Atlantic coastline last month.

A tropical storm watch is in effect for the southern two-thirds of the South Carolina coast, from Florida up to the South Santee River.


8:50 a.m.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott is warning that Hurricane Michael is a "massive storm" that could bring "total devastation" to parts of the state.

Scott activated 2,000 members of the Florida National Guard on Tuesday to deal with the fast-moving storm expected to hit the state within the next 24 hours.

The governor said he is very concerned about a potentially "historic" storm surge when Michael makes landfall somewhere in the Panhandle.

The threat has already prompted mandatory evacuation orders in counties across northwest Florida. Scott said some places could experience a storm surge of between eight and 12 feet of water as Michael blows ashore.


8 a.m.

Hurricane Michael has strengthened into a Category 2 storm with top wind speeds of 100 mph as it continues its path toward the Florida Panhandle.

As of 8 a.m. Tuesday, the storm was moving north-northwestward over the southern Gulf of Mexico at about 12 mph.

The National Hurricane Center in Miami says the hurricane was 395 miles south of Panama City, Florida, and 365 miles south of Apalachicola, Florida.

Mandatory evacuations are in effect along much of Florida's northern Gulf Coast, stretching from the Panhandle into the area known as the Big Bend.

Michael is forecast to hit the Florida coast Wednesday before moving over Alabama, Georgia and the Carolinas Wednesday night and Thursday.


5 a.m.

Hurricane Michael continues to gain strength as it moves through the southern Gulf of Mexico.

By 5 a.m. Tuesday, Michael's top sustained winds had risen some to 90 mph as it headed north at 12 mph.

The Category 1 storm was centered about 390 miles south of Apalachicola and 420 miles south of Panama City, Florida. Hurricane-force winds extended outward up to 35 miles from the core and tropical-storm-force winds out 175 miles. Hurricane-force winds extended outward up to 40 miles from the core and tropical-storm-force winds out 195 miles.

Forecasters say the center of Michael will continue to move over the southern Gulf of Mexico Tuesday morning. The storm will then move across the eastern Gulf of Mexico later Tuesday into the night.

The center is then expected to move inland over the Florida Panhandle or Florida Big Bend area on Wednesday, and then move northeastward across the southeastern United States Wednesday night and Thursday.

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