Since the storm will spend two to three days over the Gulf of Mexico, which has very warm water temperatures and favorable atmospheric conditions, "there is a real possibility that Michael will strengthen to a major hurricane before landfall", Robbie Berg, a hurricane specialist at the Miami-based storm forecasting hub, wrote in an advisory. The storm is expected to move inland over the Florida Panhandle or Florida Big Bend area by Wednesday, and then move northeastward across the southeastern United States, the NHC said. Eastern, Michael's peak winds attained hurricane-strength, climbing to 75 miles per hour, as it moved north at 7 miles per hour.

A tropical storm watch was issued from Suwannee River to Anna Maria Island, which also includes Tampa Bay. Storm surge is not much of a concern because forecasters expect the hurricane to move quickly across the state, Martin said.

Tropical Storm Michael is now east of the Yucatan Peninsula and expected to strengthen to a hurricane before making landfall around the Florida panhandle.

Pfaff said the storm is still worth noting, as it will bring high winds and heavy rains to an area still recovering from the last storm.

"Areas hit hard by Florence may face disruptions to ongoing cleanup efforts or renewed flooding depending on the track of the storm", AccuWeather senior meteorologist Kristina Pydynowski said. It is becoming more likely, but still not certain, at this point that some of our southern counties could see hurricane force wind gusts (74mph+) In addition to the wind, Michael could be a decent rain maker, with several inches of rain possible.

Storms can force the tide in or out, which means possible flooding, but a recent dry spell locally means the ground can withstand more rainfall, Orrock said.

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

While the storm will pass well west of Tampa Bay, the area will see gusty south and southeast winds with showers Monday through Wednesday. The National Hurricane Center is telling residents to take this threat seriously and to expect storm surge and heavy rainfall along with risky 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.

Florida State University said its campuses in Tallahassee and Panama City will be closed from Tuesday to Friday.

Hurricane Michael is approaching northern Florida and as Gov. Rick Scott expanded his state of emergency declaration to include Manatee County, local officials are urging residents to be prepared but have not issued a state of emergency.


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