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The National Hurricane Center says Michael is now a hurricane and will continue to strengthen as it approaches US.

A tropical storm watch has been issued from the Suwannee River in the Big Bend, south to Anna Maria Island, just south of Tampa Bay.

Tropical storm watches are in effect from Suwanee River, Florida, to Anna Maria Island, Florida, including Tampa Bay.

According to ABC News, the storm is around 120 miles east-northeast of Cozumel, Mexico, and its maximum sustained wind speeds have reached up to 70 mph.

"Heavy rainfall from Michael could produce life-threatening flash flooding from the Florida Panhandle and Big Bend region into portions of the Carolinas through Thursday", the hurricane center said. Storm surge and hurricane watches are in effect for some areas along the Gulf Coast. The below graphic shows the storm's projected path, which could also dump large amounts of rain throughout the Carolinas, which are still recovering from Hurricane Florence. It could strengthen into a major hurricane with winds topping 111 miles per hour (178 kph) before an expected strike Wednesday on Florida's Panhandle.

Threats include damaging winds and flooding rain, along with storm surge and inland flooding along the immediate coast.

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

Florida has already declared an emergency in 26 counties. On the forecast track, the center of Michael will pass near the western tip of Cuba within the next couple of hours and move into the southeastern Gulf of Mexico by tonight.

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After crossing the Florida panhandle midweek, Michael is also expected to soak Tennessee and swaths of the Mid-Atlantic, including Virginia and Maryland, later this week.

The latest track now has Michael reaching major hurricane status as a category 3 hurricane prior to making landfall along the Florida gulf coast.

"All indications are that it's going to be severe", said City Commissioner Gil Ziffer, adding that if the storm hits Florida's capital, there would be significant tree damage and power outages.

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.

"On the state level we are prepared, now is the time for residents in south Alabama to review your emergency preparedness plans and also get prepared".

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

The following is the latest information on Tropical Storm Michael.