Hurricane Michael Latest NOAA Forecast: Track, Path Updates For 'Major Hurricane'

Ahead of Hurricane Michael making landfall, southern states are preparing for the potentially deadly weather that's headed their way. Even small changes in a storm's trajectory can have devastating impacts and officials advised residents to avoid a false sense of safety if they're not currently in the path, as nothing is set in stone.

Hurricane Michael became a Category 1 hurricane on Monday with maximum sustained wind speeds of 75 miles per hour. Overnight, Michael strengthened and the National Hurricane Center (NHC) found the storm had maximum sustained wind speeds of 100 miles per hour, pushing it to a Category 2 hurricane.

The last Hurricane Michael forecast advisory released by the NHC on Monday night had the storm moving north at 355 degrees and making landfall over the Florida Panhandle on Wednesday.

On Tuesday morning, the NOAA's NHC reported Michael was still supposed to hit the Panhandle on Wednesday but had a slight change in direction. Instead of moving north at 355 degrees, the storm was moving north-northwest at 345 degrees, moving the point of landfall toward Panama City, Florida. The slight change in distance took the point of landfall from inside Gulf County, Florida, to inside Bay County, Florida.

hurricane michael landfall forecast
On Monday night, Hurricane Michael was expected to make landfall in Gulf County, Florida, as indicated by the black line. National Hurricane Center
hurricane michael forecast
On Tuesday, Hurricane Michael's trajectory had changed slightly, moving the point of landfall from Gulf County, Florida, to the neighboring Bay County. National Hurricane Center

Joby Smith, chief of Bay County's emergency management division, told USA Today the storm's point of landfall will determine the primary threat to residents. If the storm takes a western path, the main concern would be storm surges, if it comes through the east, then the severe weather would be the most threatening.

The NHC also cautioned people against focusing solely on where the storm will hit and not seeing the forest for the trees.

"We don't want anybody to get hung up on, 'Well, is the storm going to go over this city or is it going over that city?' — that's immaterial here," NHC Public Affairs Officer Dennis Feltgen told USA Today. "You need to be looking at the overall impacts of the hurricane."

In Florida, storm surges combined with the tide have the possibility to flood areas of Florida up to 12 feet. Isolated areas could also experience up to 12 inches of rain, causing life-threatening flash flooding.

hurricane michael rainfall
Hurricane Michael is expected to bring up to 12 inches of rainfall to isolated areas of Florida, causing life-threatening flash floods. The storm's impact is expected to be felt as far north as New England. National Hurricane Center

While the storm wasn't expected to make landfall until Wednesday, NHC Director Ken Graham said that people need to be prepared on Tuesday because that's when hurricane-force winds will arrive in Florida. The winds extend outward 40 miles from the center and have the potential to cause days-long power outages.

There was also an overnight change in the forecasted threat of Michael and on Tuesday morning, the tropical storm warning for the Cuban province of Pinar del Rio was canceled. However, the following warnings were still in place:

  • Storm surge warning for the Okaloosa/Walton County Line in Florida to the Anclote River in Florida
  • Storm surge watch for the Anclote River in Florida to Anna Maria Island in Florida
  • Hurricane warning for the Alabama/Florida border to the Suwannee River in Florida
  • Hurricane watch for the Alabama/Florida border to the Mississippi/Alabama border
  • Tropical storm warning for the Alabama/Florida border to the Mississippi/Alabama border, Suwanee River in Florida to the Chassahowitzka River in Florida and the Cuban province of the Isle of Youth
  • Tropical storm watch for Chassahowitzka to Anna Maria Island Florida, including Tampa Bay and the Mississippi/Alabama border to the Mouth of the Pearl River

The difference between a warning and a watch is the likelihood the event will occur. During a warning, conditions are expected to transpire and during a watch, it's possible it will occur.

After moving across the eastern Gulf of Mexico on Tuesday night, the storm is expected to turn in a northeastward motion on Wednesday and Thursday. After making landfall in Florida, Michael is forecasted to move across the southeastern United States, impacting as far north as New England.

hurricane michael forecast, track
A satellite image from NASA captured Hurricane Michael as it moves towards the Gulf of Mexico and Florida. NASA

Ahead of the storm's arrival, Florida Governor Rick Scott declared a state of emergency and local governments issued mandatory and voluntary evacuation orders for residents in vulnerable areas.

"Hurricane Michael is a monstrous storm," Scott said during a briefing on Tuesday morning. "This storm can kill you … During a storm, first responders can't come out and save you, it's too dangerous."

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey also declared a state of emergency on Monday because residents in the storm's path face high winds, torrential rains, the threat of flooding, and storm surges.

At the peak of the storm, Hurricane Michael is forecasted to reach maximum sustained wind speeds of 120 miles per hour, making it a Category 3, which is considered a "major hurricane" by the NHC.

Along with the threat from the hurricane, the NHC reported that tornados are possible in Florida and southern Georgia, as well.