(RNN) - Hurricane Michael is expected to continue growing more severe before it hits northwest Florida this week.
The National Hurricane Center reported the Category 1 storm was 485 miles south of Panama City, FL, in its 11 p.m. ET report Monday. Producing heavy rainfall and strong winds, Michael continues moving north at 12 mph, with maximum sustained winds of 90 mph.
The storm is expected to make U.S. landfall somewhere along the Florida Panhandle, then cut a path across the Southeast later in the week, potentially including parts of Alabama and Georgia before heading northward to Virginia and Maryland.
“The center of Michael is expected to move inland over the Florida Panhandle or Florida Big Bend area on Wednesday, and then move northeastward across the southeastern United States Wednesday night and Thursday,” the NHC said.
A life-threatening storm surge has been predicted along Florida’s Gulf Coast, along with dangerous winds and heavy rainfall.
A storm surge warning is in effect from the Okaloosa-Walton County line to the Anclote River in Florida. 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.
A hurricane warning has been issued for the Gulf Coast from the Alabama-Florida border to the Suwannee River, and for the Cuban province of Pinar del Rio.
There’s a hurricane watch in effect from the Alabama-Florida border to the Mississippi-Alabama border.
Tropical storm warnings were issued for other parts of Cuba, and for the coasts of Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.
A tropical storm watch is in effect for the Chassahowitzka River to Anna Maria Island in Florida, including Tampa Bay, and for the Mississippi-Alabama border to the mouth of the Pearl River.
NHC forecasters said the storm had become better organized Monday morning, and that the westerly wind shear that was supposed to curtail its strengthening didn’t have the desired effect.
The storm continued strengthening throughout Monday as it moved over Cuba.
It’s expected to continue moving northward through Tuesday night, during which time it will strengthen, helped by the favorable conditions in the Gulf.
It’s expected to become a major hurricane Tuesday night or Wednesday.