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Scott, who announced he was declaring a state of emergency Sunday for 26 counties in the Florida Panhandle and Big Bend, said that afternoon that the storm will be slow, strong and will bring a unsafe storm surge."This storm will be life-threatening and extremely risky", he said in briefing Sunday evening. "Storm preparations should be rushed to completion today and Tuesday".

The storm could cause rip tides and other risky surf conditions along Florida's West Coast and Panhandle as early as Monday, the Florida Division of Emergency Management said.

The governor warned that storm surge could affect areas of Florida not in the storm's direct path.

The Commodity Weather Group said on Sunday there might be some precautionary evacuation of oil rigs in the area affected by the storm, which may slow down operations but not likely cause much interruption. "Every family must be prepared".

Rick Scott has declared a state of emergency for 26 counties as Tropical Storm Michael gathers strength in the Caribbean and barrels toward the Florida Panhandle.

Wind gusts in central North Carolina could reach 40 miles per hour. He says winds in those areas could reach more than 100 miles per hour (160 kph).

An intensifying storm system that became Tropical Storm Michael Sunday afternoon is setting its sights on the northern Gulf Coast, and forecasters say it could be a Category 2 hurricane when it makes landfall. The Hurricane Center's statement said interests along the northeastern and central U.S. Gulf Coast should monitor the progress of the depression.

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Benchmark Brent crude was up 65 cents at $84.56 a barrel by 0850 GMT, having fallen as low as $82.66 on Monday. Global crude oil prices had reached a record high of $147 per barrel in July 2009.

The Florida panhandle will be hardest hit, with parts of the Tallahassee and Panama City areas getting 12 inches of rainfall along with damaging winds.

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, who is also the Democratic gubernatorial candidate in the November 6 election, said on Sunday he was cancelling his campaign events and returning to Tallahassee, the state capital, to focus on storm preparations.

The city of Pensacola tweeted to residents, "Be sure you have your emergency plan in place".

The storm was located by 11 p.m. ET Sunday about 105 miles east-southeast of Cozumel, Mexico and moving to the north at about 5 mph. Hurricane Hunters are collecting data on the storm, and that data will be fed into our forecast models.

A tropical storm warning means that tropical storm conditions are expected somewhere within the warning area within 36 hours.

Forecasters also said that even if a cyclone does not form, the disturbance will bring "torrential rains primarily to portions of Central America, and these rains should then spread over western Cuba and the Yucatan peninsula during the next few days". Beginning Monday and continuing through Thursday, the chance of showers jumps up to 60 to 70 percent.