Tropical Storm Michael becomes hurricane, eyes Gulf Coast

Tropical Storm Michael becomes hurricane, eyes Gulf Coast

Right now, the National Hurricane Center's forecast path shows Michael may make landfall between Pensacola and Destin, Florida, on Wednesday.

Once a tropical storm, Hurricane Michael is expected to strike the Florida Panhandle with Category 3 winds of 74-plus miles per hour.

The advisory added Michael will present "risk of life-threatening storm surge, heavy rainfall an unsafe winds increasing for the northeastern Gulf Coast".

The storm was expected to bring up to 12 inches (30 cm) of rain with storm surges up to 12 feet (3.7 meters), according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC). Michael was located about 60 miles north-northwest of the western tip of Cuba and was moving north at 12 mph. A tropical storm warning has been "issued from the Alabama/Florida border westward to the Mississippi/Alabama border and from Suwannee River Florida southward to Chassahowitzka Florida", it added.

"If this storm hits near Panama City, the Tampa area will still see life threatening storm surge", Scott said.

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

As forecast, Michael would be the first Category 3 or higher hurricane to hit the Panhandle since Hurricane Dennis in 2005. Mobile and Baldwin Counties are also under a Hurricane Watch.

Current advisory shows winds are sustained at 75 miles per hour.

According to an alert published by the Cuban Civil Defense, meteorologists warned affected residents that they could experience hurricane-force winds.

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Rick Scott says Hurricane Michael is a "monstrous storm" that has the potential to be devastating to the Florida Panhandle.

"At this time. there are no plans for (a local state of emergency) but the storm is changing and shifting, so if there is a need to do that, between now and then, then commissioners (Tuesday) morning would learn of that", Manatee County information outreach manager Nick Azzara said.

A hurricane warning has been issued for the Cuban province of Pinar del Rio and tropical storm warnings are in effect for the Cuban province of Isle of Youth and the Mexican coast from Tulum to Cabo Catoche.

In neighboring Alabama, Governor Kay Ivey declared an emergency for the entire state on Monday in anticipation of wind damage, heavy rains and power outages.

Hurricane conditions have spread over portions of western Cuba this afternoon, where a hurricane warning is now in effect.

The storm is tracking east of major oil lease areas, limiting its effect on production, said John Tharp, operations supervisor at Weather Decision Technologies. Exxon said it did not expect the staff reduction to affect output.

4 P.M. Hurricane warnings are now up between the Alabama-Florida state line and the Suwannee River as Hurricane Michael continues moving north at a slightly higher forward speed and 80 miles per hour winds.

Another national, Neil Fung, said the storm looks like " a major one". Officials also alerted residents living on the coast of the possibility of flooding caused by the storm.

A separate storm system is forecast to drench the central heavy rain on Monday.

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