The National Hurricane Center (NHC) announced Monday that the tropical storm had nearly reached hurricane strength and could even be at or near major hurricane strength by Tuesday night, when it is expected to approach northwestern Florida. Mandatory evacuation orders were issued for residents of barrier islands, mobile homes and low-lying coastal areas in Gulf, Wakulla and Bay counties.
Michael could strengthen into a major hurricane with winds topping 111mph by Tuesday night before an expected strike on Wednesday on the Panhandle or Big Bend, according to the National Hurricane Centre.
Stronger sustained tropical-storm force winds would be confined to the coast or just off shore, maybe for Citrus County, if at all, says FOX 13's meteorologist Dave Osterberg.
Another TT national, Ray Mohammed, said Florida has been through worse storms and was confident the state would ride out Michael.
Coastal storm surges of up to 12 feet (3.7 meters) are expected along the panhandle. Some parts of Alabama are under tropical storm watches or warnings.
Previous year saw a string of catastrophic storms batter the western Atlantic - including Irma, Maria and Hurricane Harvey - causing a record-equaling $125 billion in damage when it flooded the Houston metropolitan area. "It looks like another big one", he added.
The storm was centered about 30 miles (45 kilometers) off the western tip of Cuba, and about 520 miles (835 kilometers) south of Apalachicola, Florida.
Michael is forecast to continue intensifying, possibly reaching Category 2 or 3 intensity, by the time it reaches the Gulf Coast mid-week. A storm surge warning was issued for Florida's Gulf coast from the Okaloosa-Walton County Line to Anclote River.
SOME TT nationals living in Florida are keeping a close eye on Hurricane Michael.
Hurricane Michael, a powerful Category 4 storm, has made landfall on Florida's Gulf Coast near Mexico Beach.
"It's kind of got us all on edge right now", Rachel Burke, general manger of Brass Tap Craft Beer Bar on Panama City Beach, said Monday afternoon.
SWFL, meanwhile, will avoid direct impacts as the center will stay well to the west of the area.
"Families should take the opportunity today to make sure they have three days of food and water, as well as all needed medications", Governor Scott wrote on Twitter.