Michael expected to gain hurricane strength nearing Florida

Tropical Storm Michael forms expected to become hurricane next week

It is forecast to strengthen into a hurricane by Monday night or Tuesday as its center moves over the Yucatan Channel, crosses the Gulf of Mexico and nears the Florida Panhandle coast sometime Wednesday. Many trees will be snapped or uprooted, blocking numerous roads. A Category 2 hurricane has sustained winds of 96 to 110 miles per hour. The National Hurricane Center is forecasting a 20% chance of tropical development within the next 2 days, increasing to 30% chance within the next 5 days.

"Michael could produce three life-threatening hazards along portions of the northeastern Gulf Coast: storm surge, heavy rainfall and hurricane-force winds", according to the hurricane center. A hurricane watch is in effect from the Alabama-Florida border eastward to the Suwanee River, and tropical storm watches have been issued from the Suwanee River to Anna Maria Island and from the Alabama-Florida border to the Mississippi-Alabama border.

Elsewhere in the tropics, Tropical Storm Leslie continues to churn in the open waters of the Atlantic.

The governor warned that there is potential for "devastating impact to communities across the Panhandle and Big Bend".

The overall forecast track has shifted slightly east, but the Florida Panhandle to the Big Bend remains the most likely region for a landfall at this point. With the high wind shear that had been making it hard for the storm to organize retreating from the Gulf of Mexico it is likely the system will become Michael as it makes its way north.

Scott warned that Michael could reach land as a Category 2 hurricane, with winds in excess of 100 miles per hour.

"Everybody's got to get ready".

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"Do not take a chance on storm surge", Scott said.

The latest wind speed probabilities show a 50/50 shot of winds of 40 miles per hour or greater, these chances could go up as we get greater confidence in the forecast.

Landfall is imminent on the Florida Panhandle coast Wednesday afternoon. The governor's declaration activates the state's emergency operations plan, according to Ivey's office.

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

The storm at 8 a.m. was travelling with 35-mph winds.

A very active weather pattern will bring several rounds of heavy rain to the central USA over the next few days, which could lead to flash flooding, as well as severe weather in parts of the Plains, and even snow to the Northern Rockies and Plains.

Due to the King Tides - exceptionally high tides - along both coasts, coastal flooding also could be a concern.

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