Florida Governor Rick Scott ordered evacuations on Monday night as Hurricane Michael, described as “monstrous” and “massive,” could make landfall on Wednesday as a Category 3 hurricane. Areas of Mississippi, Georgia and Alabama are also under watches and warnings.

Michael could be the strongest landfall of any hurricane along Florida’s Panhandle on the Gulf Coast in 13 years.

Michael gaining strength

Hurricane Michael strengthened to a Category 2 hurricane on Tuesday, and as of 7 AM CDT, had sustained winds of 100 miles per hour. Michael is now forecast to strike the Florida Panhandle as a Category 3 sometime on Wednesday. It will bring dangerous storm surge flooding, destructive winds and flooding rainfall.

As Michael moves inland, it will bring strong winds and heavy rains to other parts of the southeastern United States, and heavy rain to the Northeast by week’s end.

State of emergency, power outages likely in 3 states

Michael is projected to make landfall on Wednesday as a Category 3 hurricane with sustained wind speeds between 111-129 miles per hour.

Florida Governor Scott has declared a state of emergency in 35 Florida counties, as well as, has activated 500 Florida National Guard members, with another 5,000 at the ready.

Power outages are likely for a wide area of the Florida Panhandle, as well, as a broad region of Georgia extending to the middle of the state, and the southeastern region of Alabama.

Evacuations and warnings

Authorities issued mandatory evacuation for three counties within the Florida Panhandle due to the threat of storm surges which could reach up to 12 feet.

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) issued a hurricane warning for part of the Florida coast, saying life-threatening storm surge is likely along portions of the coast of the Florida Panhandle, Big Bend, and Nature Crest.

The NHC said Hurricane Michael was strengthening while moving north-northwest over the southeastern Gulf of Mexico.

The NHC also issued storm surge and tropical storm warnings for areas of Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi, warning of hurricane force winds and heavy rainfall along the northeastern Gulf Coast. The bulletin said Michael could produce life-threatening flash flooding from the Florida Panhandle and Big Bend region into portions of Georgia and South Carolina.

Wide band of rain to affect South & portions of Northeast

As Michael moves inland and takes a northeastern turn Thursday-Friday, where it is expected to downgrade to a tropical storm, the weather system is projected to move over Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia before moving out into the Atlantic.

The wide band of rain will also reach areas of Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky and West Virginia.

As Michael moves northeast,  its wide rain band will extend into areas of Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and many of the New England states.

Areas hit by Florence in danger

The strongest rainfall will occur diagonally in a northeastern slant over the center of Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina, which could see between 4-6 inches of rain.

However, the coasts of the Carolinas and Virginia, already hard-hit from Florence, could experience an additional 2-4 inches of rain, which could bring more flash flooding to areas still recovering.