Michael could strengthen into a major hurricane with winds topping 111 miles per hour (178 kph) by Tuesday night before an expected strike Wednesday on the Panhandle or Big Bend, according to the National Hurricane Center.
A tropical storm watch was issued from Suwannee River to Anna Maria Island, which also includes Tampa Bay.
By Wednesday, Michael will likely move inland over the Florida Panhandle and Big Bend, making its way across the southeastern USA that night and Thursday morning.
By 11 a.m. Monday, Michael's top sustained winds were around 75 miles per hour (120 kph).
A Hurricane Watch has been issued from the Alabama-Florida border eastward to the Suwanee River.
Rick Scott gave a statement regarding the storm on Monday morning, saying that he has declared a State of Emergency in 26 counties ahead of the landfall. "Residents and businesses in coastal Alabama must be vigilant and closely monitor the storm's path and be prepared for a major hurricane".
Michael is forecasted to become a major hurricane by Tuesday or Tuesday night.
Meanwhile, broad swaths of the Carolinas could find themselves exposed to tropical storm-force winds as early as Wednesday evening.
Scott warned that Michael could reach land as a Category 2 hurricane, with winds in excess of 100 miles per hour.
With these additions, the state of emergency includes 35 Florida counties in total.
Scott said 500 Florida National Guard members had been activated for planning, logistics and response, and another 5,000 stood at the ready.
A satellite image shows Hurricane Michael spinning near Cuba Monday morning, October 8, 2018.
The storm was centered about 80 kilometers off the western tip of Cuba, and about 220 kilometers east-northeast of Cozumel, Mexico.
A low pressure system south of the Azores has only a 10 percent chance of development, the Hurricane Center said.
The center of Michael is expected to move across the Yucatán Channel - a strait between Mexico and Cuba - Monday, slowly making its way across the eastern Gulf of Mexico through Wednesday.
"We've seen this happen many times with storms, and they've just start to bring all that water with them", explained FOX 13's meteorologist Dave Osterberg, "and they've pushed that water in". The storm will move toward the northeast over the Carolinas and parts of Virginia before heading out over the Atlantic Ocean as a tropical storm by late Thursday or Friday.
"Do not take a chance on storm surge", Scott said.