Michael expected to gain hurricane strength nearing Florida


Michael emerged Sunday as a tropical storm with winds of up to 50 miles per hour (85 kph).

A tropical storm warning is in effect for the Cuban provinces of Pinar del Rio and the Isle of Youth and the eastern coast of Mexico from Tulum to Cabo Catoche, including Cozumel. Steady to rapid strengthening is forecast during the next day or so, and Michael is expected to become a major hurricane by Tuesday night. Its movement speed was only 8 km/h.

The National Hurricane Center is predicting it will gain strength and become Tropical Storm Michael by tonight, and should head into the Gulf of Mexico late Monday.

Now located about 50 miles south of the western tip of Cuba and 140 miles east-northeast of Cozumel, Mexico, Hurricane Michael is moving north near 7 miles per hour, according to the National Hurricane Center's (NHC) latest advisory.

Storm and storm surge watches were issued for the Gulf Coast from the Mississippi-Alabama border to Chassahowitzka, Florida, north of Tampa Bay.

Scott encouraged residents in the path of the storm to prepare now, and directed everyone to visit FloridaDisaster.org to find information on emergency preparedness, shelters, road closures, and evacuation routes.

Rick Scott says Michael is a "monstrous storm" that has the potential to be devastating to the Florida Panhandle. Fearing that the natural calamity could become a Category 2 hurricane with winds up to 100 miles per hour by the time it makes landfall next Wednesday, Scott has mobilized some 500 National Guard troops to assist with planning and logistics.

The NHC also added in its advisory that Michael is likely to turn into a hurricane by Tuesday night or early Wednesday morning. The areas from Chassahowitzka to Anna Maria Island and between the Alabama-Florida border and the Okaloosa-Walton county line could see 2 to 4 feet of storm surge. Michael is moving toward the north at 5.0 miles per hour (7.0 kph), with maximum sustained winds of 60 miles per hour (95 kph) and a minimum central pressure that has fallen to 997 MB or 29.44 inches.

Keep in mind that in a hurricane, the impacts can stretch hundreds of miles outside the center - including wind, tropical downpours that lead to flooding, storm surge, and tornadoes. He returned to Tallahassee Sunday morning to oversee the state's response to the storm.

Michael is the seventh hurricane of the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season. Officials also alerted residents living on the coast of the possibility of flooding caused by the storm.

Godsey said winds in the tropical storm range could result in downed trees and power outages.