Tropical Storm Michael nears hurricane strength as Florida prepares

Chance of tropical depression or tropical storm developing in Gulf has increased

Chance of tropical depression or tropical storm developing in Gulf has increased

A tropical storm off Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula has rapidly strengthened and could become a risky hurricane before an expected midweek strike on the Gulf Coast in the Florida Panhandle, forecasters said Monday.

Michael is expected to become a hurricane by Monday evening as it moves into the Gulf of Mexico, heading for a possible landing on the Florida Panhandle by sometime Wednesday.

Elsewhere, outer rain bands from the depression are expected to produce total rain accumulations of 2 to 4 inches across the Florida Keys through Monday.

Packing winds of 50 mph, the storm was about 130 miles southeast of Cozumel, Mexico, on Sunday afternoon, crawling to the north-northeast at 3 mph. Tropical Storm Warnings are now in effect for parts of the Yucatan Peninsula and Western Cuba.

In its most recent advisory Monday, the Hurricane Center upgraded Michael from a tropical storm when maximum sustained winds were recorded at 75 miles per hour with higher gusts.

"Michael is forecast to be a hurricane when it reaches the northeastern Gulf Coast by mid-week, and the risk of unsafe storm surge, rainfall and wind impacts continues to increase", the advisory said.

"This storm will be life-threatening and extremely unsafe", Scott said in a briefing Sunday. "As we continue to monitor this storm's northward path toward Florida, it is critically important that our communities have every available resource to keep everyone safe and prepared". He also activated 500 Florida Guard troops ahead of the storm and has a further 5,000 on standby. This could lead to life-threatening flash flooding in some areas.

A hurricane watch has been issued from the Alabama-Florida border eastward to the Suwanee River in Florida. However, forecasts have gradually been revised upward, such that the storm may attain major hurricane status - category 3 or higher - before making landfall in the panhandle around Wednesday. Hurricane Hunters are collecting data on the storm, and that data will be fed into our forecast models.

Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum canceled campaign events in South Florida on Monday and Tuesday to prepare for the storm, his campaign said.

Michael is the 13th named storm of the 2018 hurricane season.

A storm is designated a Category 1 hurricane if it reaches speeds of 74 miles per hour (119 kph) or more, and a Category 3 hurricane at 111 miles per hour (178 kph) or more on the five-step Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale.

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