The storm is expected to undergo rapid intensification again Tuesday.
In advance of the storm on Monday, emergency managers ordered mandatory evacuations along the coast expected to see the fiercest winds and highest surge, including Wakulla, Franklin, Gulf and Bay counties.
By 8 p.m. Monday, Michael's top sustained winds were around 85 miles per hour (140 kph) as it headed north at 12 miles per hour (19 kph).
The speed of the storm barrelling toward the Florida Panhandle - Michael was already north of Cuba and moving north-northwest at 19kmh - gave many people only hours to prepare and flee before damaging wind and rain starts whipping the coast. The storm was moving north-northwest at 12 miles per hour.
The Florida State men's and women's swimming & diving teams will not travel to Christiansburg, Virginia due to the threat of Hurricane Michael. Storm surge recedes by Thursday afternoon.
A tropical storm watch is in effect along the southeastern coast of the USA from Fernandina Beach, FL, to South Santee River, SC, the Chassahowitzka River to Anna Maria Island in Florida, including Tampa Bay, and the Mississippi-Alabama border to the mouth of the Pearl River. A storm surge watch is in effect for the Anclote River to Anna Maria Island, including Tampa Bay, and for the Alabama-Florida border to the Okaloosa-Walton County line.
"Hurricane conditions are expected within the hurricane warning area along the U.S. Gulf Coast by Wednesday, with tropical storm conditions expected by tonight or early Wednesday".
Tropical storm warnings were issued for the coasts of Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.
After striking Florida, Michael is forecast to move up the East Coast on Wednesday and Thursday tearing through the Carolinas, still recovering from Hurricane Florence last month.
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Florida Governor Rick Scott has expanded a state of emergency to 35 counties, while health officials are checking on facilities that care for the elderly, which have been told to install generators and file evacuation plans in preparation for Michael.
Hurricanes are violent storms that can bring devastation to coastal areas, threatening lives, homes and businesses.
FEMA administrator Brock Long said the agency was prepared for the storm in all the states likely to feel Michael's impact.
"Everybody's got to get ready. Do not think you can survive it", Scott said.
The governor's office cautioned that flash flooding and tornadoes are possible with any hurricane. He also has declared a state of emergency for 35 counties and asked President Donald Trump for assistance ahead of the storm.
Since the Sunshine State has been battered by so many hurricanes, including the destructive Hurricane Andrew in 1992, Floridians are better prepared to handle flooding than virtually any other state.
Some areas along the state's Big Bend area could see unsafe storm surge between six and 12 feet as Michael nears, the Hurricane Center reported.
Florida State University has closed through Friday and the Pensacola International Airport is set to close Wednesday.
In Alabama, where residents may see massive power outages, high winds and heavy rain, Gov. Kay Ivey issued a state of emergency statewide.
Alexander Charnicharo fishes at the seafront in Havana as Hurricane Michael passes by western Cuba on October 8, 2018.