The Florida Panhandle is bracing for Hurricane Michael, which has undergone what forecasters call "rapid intensification" and is now threatening to hit the region as a Category 3 storm Wednesday morning. Gov. Rick Scott called the storm a "monster" Monday night and warned that we "haven’t seen anything like this in the Panhandle in decades," the Pensacola Journal reports. The storm's effects will be felt on the Gulf Coast as soon as Tuesday night, and a state of emergency has now been declared in 35 counties, with evacuations ordered in some areas. Alabama is under a statewide emergency declaration.
"This storm has the potential to bring devastating impacts to communities across the Panhandle and Big Bend and every family must be prepared," Scott said, warning that Tampa and other areas could see "life-threatening" storm surges of up to 12 feet. The National Hurricane Center says Michael, classed as a Category 1 storm Monday night, is expected to be a "dangerous major hurricane" by Wednesday, reports CNN. The AP reports that the storm, combined with a Pacific low pressure system, has already killed at least 13 people in El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua, and could trigger landslides by dumping up to a foot of rain on western Cuba. (Read more Hurricane Michael stories.)