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Hurricane Michael Gaining Strength in Florida Approach


Tallahassee Mayor and Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Andrew Gillum, left, helps Eboni Sipling fill up sandbags in Tallahassee, Florida, Oct. 8, 2018.

Forecasters say Hurricane Michael has strengthened into a powerful Category 2 storm as it continues on a dangerous path toward the southeastern U.S. state of Florida.

Governor Rick Scott called it a "monstrous storm" and said residents could expect it to have intensified to a Category 3 hurricane by the time it makes landfall between Tuesday night and Wednesday afternoon.

"It is critical for you listen to local news reports," Scott said during a Tuesday morning news conference. "Hurricane Michael is a massive storm that could bring total devastation to parts of our state, especially in the Panhandle. Think about the destruction we've seen before with storms like Hurricane Irma."

President Donald Trump emphasized that FEMA, the U.S. disaster response agency, would be ready to handle the fallout.

"We're very well prepared for the incoming hurricane," Trump said Tuesday at the White House. "We have another one coming, so we've done very well. North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, so many places and we have another one coming and a big one."

The National Hurricane Center says Michael is located about 635 kilometers south of the popular resort town of Panama City, carrying maximum sustained winds of 155 kilometers an hour.

The storm has already caused damage in Mexico and Cuba.

Forecasters say the storm could dump as much as 30 centimeters of rain in western Cuba, triggering life-threatening flash floods and mudslides.

​Hurricane Michael is expected to reach Florida's Panhandle region sometime Wednesday, before slowly moving through the bottom half of the southeastern United States over the next day. The NHC has issued numerous hurricane, tropical storm and storm surge warnings for Florida and its neighboring states of Georgia, Mississippi and Alabama.

More than 100 AirBnB hosts have opened their doors to relief workers and evacuees for free, according to the company.

Max Jungreis contributed to this report.