Tropical Storm Michael Could Turn Into 'Devastating' Hurricane Before It Hits Florida

"Michael is forecast to be a hurricane, and possibly a major hurricane when it reaches the northeastern Gulf Coast by mid-week, and storm surge and hurricane watches are now in effect for portions of the area", the Center added.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center on Sunday upgraded Tropical Depression Michael to a named tropical storm, saying Michael earlier had winds of up to 85 kph. For storm information specific to your area outside the United States, please monitor products issued by your national meteorological service.DISCUSSION AND OUTLOOK -- At 1100 AM EDT (1500 UTC), the center of Hurricane Michael was located near latitude 21.2 North, longitude 84.9 West. Michael is moving toward the north near 7 miles per hour (11 km/h).

The storm was centered about 80 kilometers off the western tip of Cuba, and about 220 kilometers east-northeast of Cozumel, Mexico. It is expected to become a Category 3 major hurricane by the time it makes landfall somewhere in northwest Florida.

"A northward motion at a slightly faster forward speed is expected through Tuesday night, followed by a northeastward motion on Wednesday and Thursday", the NHC said in its Monday morning advisory. The heavy rainfall could lead to "life-threatening flash floods and mudslides", the National Hurricane Center warned. He warned that storm surge could affect areas of Florida not in the storm's direct path.

A Tropical Storm Watch has been issued for the Alabama Gulf coast, while a Hurricane Watch has been issued for the northwestern coast of Florida.

An Air Force hurricane hunter airplane was sent into the storm to investigate, the hurricane center said.

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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. That's the region that stretches from Mobile, Alabama, through the Florida Panhandle and into the Big Bend area of northern Florida.

Rick Scott declared a state of emergency for 26 counties as Tropical Storm Michael lashed Cuba.

"This storm will be life-threatening and extremely unsafe".

And during a Monday morning meeting with the EOC, Scott announced he has activated the state assistance information line to provide additional resources for residents concerned with Michaels status.

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, who is the Democratic nominee for governor, had planned to campaign in South Florida on Monday and Tuesday, but he said he would return to Tallahassee to help with storm preparations.

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