These maps shed light on when and where Hurricane Michael will hit

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- Hurricane Michael strengthened to a Category 2 storm by Tuesday morning as continues to move north in the Gulf of Mexico.

This storm presents a particularly risky situation for the Sunshine State, since computer models and official forecasts have trended toward a stronger hurricane.

The storm's center and where it makes landfall with its destructive winds represent just one of several concerns.

The storm is expected to unleash coastal storm surges of up to 12 feet (3.7 meters) along Florida's Panhandle and dump as much as a foot (30 cm) of rain across Florida, Georgia and SC, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) reported.

Citing data from aircraft that flew in the storm, the hurricane center says Michael is becoming better organized and symmetrical as it moves north.

Michael is expected to sweep up the East Coast, and tropical storm-force winds were projected to reach the state Thursday, according to the center's projections.

"Michael could develop into a potentially catastrophic event for the northeastern Gulf coast", the National Weather Service office in Tallahassee wrote in Monday afternoon's forecast.

North Carolina and SC will likely see heavy rainfall, which could cause flooding in areas already damaged by last month's Hurricane Florence.

On its current track, it would make landfall somewhere along a coastline that includes the cities and towns of Fort Walton Beach, Panama City Beach, Port St. Joe, St. Teresa and the wildlife reserves bordering Apalachee Bay.

Hurricane Michael would be the first major hurricane to hit the panhandle since Hurricane Dennis in 2005, which made landfall near Pensacola, according to hurricane center data.

Then, it will "move northeastward across the southeastern United States Wednesday night and Thursday, and move off the Mid-Atlantic coast away from the United States on Friday", the NHC said.

By 5 p.m. Monday, Michael's top sustained winds were around 80 miles per hour (130 kph) as it headed north at 9 miles per hour (14 kph).

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Michael is expected to intensify into a category 3 storm, a major hurricane, before making landfall near Panama City, Florida.

Wind shear will remain the only deterrent to the strength of Michael prior to landfal. But the surging seawater could also create perilous problems far from the coast, raising rivers and bays to risky levels as it pushes as much as 10 to 15 miles inland.

Michael wasn't quite done wreaking havoc in the Caribbean on Tuesday (Wednesday NZT).

"This storm can kill you". Flooding rains of 10 to 20 centimetres, with hurricane force winds and storm surge of up to 3½ metres are in the forecast for the region.

Gov. Rick Scott issued a State of Emergency Sunday for 26 counties in anticipation for the storm.

Scott also told caregivers at north Florida hospitals and nursing homes to do all they can to assure the safety of the elderly and infirm. After Hurricane Irma a year ago, 14 people died when a South Florida nursing home lost power and air conditioning.

Of the elderly and infirm patients, Scott had a blunt message for their caregivers: "If you're responsible for a patient, you're responsible for the patient. Take care of them", Scott said.

A large mound of sand in Tallahassee was whittled down to a small pile within hours Monday as residents filled sandbags to prepare for potential flooding.

Some feared significant tree damage and power outages in Florida's capital city.

"Guess what? That's today", Graham said.

"Think about what we've seen before with storms like Hurricane Irma", he said.