A tropical storm that rapidly formed off Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula has gained new strength and could become a unsafe Category 2 hurricane with an expected midweek strike on the Gulf Coast in the Florida Panhandle, forecasts say.
According to the forecast, parts of the Tampa Bay area and the western Florida Panhandle also could see up to 4 feet (1.2 meters) of storm surge.
The storm was about 145 miles (230 km) northeast of Cozumel, Mexico, with maximum sustained winds of 75 mph (120 kph), forecasters said.
The storm's projected path shows Michael staying west of peninsular Florida, making a landfall somewhere along the Panhandle on Wednesday.
Maximum sustained winds increased to 75 miles per hour and forecasters expect Michael to continue to strengthen.
A tropical weather system rapidly strengthened into Hurricane Michael off Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, and forecasters said it was moving Monday into the Gulf of Mexico where warm waters would continue to fuel its development.
"Hurricane conditions will spread over portions of western Cuba this afternoon, where a hurricane warning is now in effect".
A Storm Surge Watch is in effect for...
"Steady to rapid strengthening is forecast during the next day or so, and Michael is forecast to become a major hurricane by Tuesday or Tuesday night", the NHC said.
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It is becoming more likely, but still not certain, at this point that some of our southern counties could see hurricane force wind gusts (74mph+) In addition to the wind, Michael could be a decent rain maker, with several inches of rain possible.
Current advisory shows winds are sustained at 75 miles per hour.
Mandatory evacuation orders were issued on Monday for residents in various areas in Gulf Country, Florida, according to a statement from county emergency officials.
Scott activated 500 National Guard troops in advance of the storm. Michael will move across the eastern Gulf of Mexico Tuesday, and is expected to approach the United States northeastern Gulf Coast on Wednesday.
"If this storm hit Panama City, Tampa could still have storm surge", said Scott, referring to two Florida cities about 600 kilometres apart by highway.
Hurricane watches are already in place for parts of the panhandle, and tropical storm watches are in place for parts of south Georgia just outside our viewing area.
You can text "ALALERT" to 888777 to receive information for Hurricane Michael from the Alabama Emergency Management Agency. Needless to say, Michael should be taken seriously.
Michael is moving toward the north near 7 miler per hour at a northward motion.
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