The storm is aiming at a region that stretches from Mobile, Alabama, through the Florida Panhandle and into the Big Bend area of northern Florida.
Michael was now a Category 1 hurricane but could become a Category 3 storm by Tuesday on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale, with winds of at least 100 miles per hour (160 km per hour).
A hurricane watch has been declared for the Alabama-Florida border to the Suwannee River in Florida. Although few forecast models were predicting it would reach major hurricane status at the time, it seemed possible given that the storm was now moving away from the Yucatan Peninsula landmass and toward warmer waters in the southern Gulf of Mexico, where it will encounter lower overall wind shear.
As of 8 a.m. ET Monday, Tropical Storm Michael was centered about 70 miles east-northeast of Cozumel, Mexico, and 70 miles south of the western tip of Cuba, the hurricane center said.
Mandatory evacuation orders were issued on Monday for residents in various areas in Gulf County, Florida, according to a statement from county emergency officials.
The latest track shows a weakening Michael moving either directly through, or at least near central Georgia as a tropical storm. Pfaff said this rain could cause flash flooding and even raise the river levels slightly.
Although Hurricane Michael won't be sweeping over Orlando, the area will see increased rain chances over the next 48 to 72 hours. But within a few hours it gained more strength and by Sunday evening, it had top sustained winds of 95 kph.
Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, who is the Democratic nominee for governor, had planned to campaign in South Florida on Monday and Tuesday, but he said he would return to Tallahassee to help with storm preparations.
Manatee County is under storm surge and tropical storm watches. The National Hurricane Center is telling residents to take this threat seriously and to expect storm surge and heavy rainfall along with unsafe winds. It was moving north around 7 miles per hour.
The Florida panhandle will be hardest hit, with parts of the Tallahassee and Panama City areas getting 12 inches of rainfall along with damaging winds.
Once the storm makes landfall, some projections estimate that it could make its way across Georgia and into North and SC before moving out into the Atlantic ocean.
The forecast track from the National Hurricane Center brings the storm to the Gulf Coast, most likely the Florida Panhandle, on Wednesday.