Michael expected to gain hurricane strength as it approaches Florida

Michael expected to gain hurricane strength as it approaches Florida

Forecasters say the powerful storm could bring heavy rainfall, storm surge and "dangerous" winds increasing for the northeastern Gulf Coast.

A satellite image shows Hurricane Michael spinning near Cuba Monday morning, October 8, 2018.

On Sunday, a tropical storm formed in the northern Caribbean Sea. A major hurricane is defined as Category 3 or greater on the Saffir-Simpson scale, with sustained winds of 111mph or greater.

As of the 7:00 a.m. CDT advisory from the National Hurricane Center (NHC) in Miami, Florida, Michael was located roughly 120 miles east-northeast from Cozumel, Mexico - headed north into the Gulf of Mexico at seven miles per hour.

A hurricane watch has been posted for the Florida Gulf Coast, all the way from the Alabama-Florida border to the Suwannee River in Florida.

Predictions from the National Weather Service say the area can expect 2 to 4 inches of rain and it has a good chance of seeing tropical storm wind speeds. Hurricane watches have been issued for the Florida Panhandle and Big Bend area.

As of 7 a.m. Monday, the storm was "almost a hurricane" and moving north at 7 miles per hour, reported the National Hurricane Center.

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NBC 26 meteorologists are tracking Michael.

The NWS release said major impacts are possible by mid-week, but that could change, depending on the cyclone's track and intensity.

"Its going to be the Florida Panhandle", he said. "The models are in pretty good agreement". The center warned heavy rain, unsafe winds and life-threatening storm surges were possible across Western Cuba on Monday as winds picked up speed on the Gulf Coast. The governor said Monday that he has activated the assistance information line to help residents at 1-800-342-3557.

Mandatory evacuation orders were issued on Monday for residents in various areas in Gulf County, Florida, according to a statement from county emergency officials. In the below tweet, storm chaser Jeff Piotrowski states his belief that Michael even has the potential to reach Category 4 status, although most outlets are sticking with one notch below for now.

In some parts of the Florida coast, storm surges are projected to approach eleven feet. Michael could reach or be close to a Category 3 by Tuesday night or Wednesday.

Manatee County is under storm surge and tropical storm watches.

Scott warned that Michael could reach land as a Category 2 hurricane, with winds in excess of 100 miles per hour. It caused 42 deaths, according to Weather Underground, and caused more than $2.5 billion in damage.

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