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Tropical Storm Michael nearly a hurricane, expected to hit Florida

Tropical Storm Michael nearly a hurricane, expected to hit Florida
Posted at 8:20 AM, Oct 08, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-08 04:25:22-04

(RNN) - Tropical Storm Michael is strengthening on its way north, becoming a hurricane, possibly a major one, before a forecast hit to northwest Florida.

As of the National Hurricane Center’s 8 a.m. ET Monday update, Michael was located 120 miles east-northeast of Cozumel, Mexico, with maximum sustained winds of 70 mph.

Michael is forecast to become a hurricane later Monday and a major hurricane Tuesday night or Wednesday.

The NHC forecasters said the storm has become better organized Monday morning, and the westerly wind shear that was supposed to curtail its strengthening hasn’t had the desired effect.

The storm is expected to continue northward through Tuesday night, during which time it will strengthen, helped by the favorable conditions in the Gulf of Mexico.

Michael is forecast to become a hurricane later Monday and a major hurricane Tuesday night or Wednesday.

The Florida Keys are expected to receive as much as 4 inches of rain through Tuesday. The Florida Panhandle and Big Bend areas are expected to receive as much as 12 inches of rain and may see flash flooding.

Forecasters say Michael could move inland over the Florida Panhandle or Big Bend area Wednesday. It will bring dangerous storm surge, damaging winds and heavy rain.

A hurricane watch is in effect for the Alabama-Florida border to the Suwannee River in Florida.

A tropical storm watch is in effect for the Suwannee River to Anna Maria Island in Florida, including Tampa Bay, and the Alabama-Florida border to the Mississippi-Alabama border.

Storm surge warnings are in place for the following locations:

Indian Pass to Crystal River - 7 to 11 feet

Crystal River to Anclote River - 4 to 6 feet

Okaloosa/Walton County Line to Indian Pass - 4 to 7 feet

Anclote River to Anna Maria Island, including Tampa Bay - 2 to 4 feet

Navarre to Okaloosa/Walton County Line - 2 to 4 feet

Before heading toward the U.S., Michael is expected to dump 4 to 8 inches of rain on western Cuba.

In light of the storm, Florida Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum suspended his campaign activity to address preparations for the storm, according to CNN. The storm is forecast to hit Tallahassee, FL, where Gillum is mayor.

Scott, the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate, has not yet adjusted his campaign schedule but is working on the state’s response to the storm, including activating 500 National Guard troops.

Tropical Storm Michael, the 13th named storm of the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season, formed near Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula on Sunday.

The sixth named storm and first major hurricane, Florence made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane the morning of Sept. 14 at Wrightsville Beach, NC.

It left at least 51 people dead across North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia, according to Reuters. The amount of damage, particularly from flooding associated with the storm, is expected to reach 11 figures.

Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Leslie is hanging around in the middle of the Atlantic.

As of 5 a.m. ET Monday, Leslie was 990 miles east-northeast of Bermuda. It is moving to the east-southeast at 13 mph, with this general motion expected to continue for the next several days.

The storm has maximum sustained winds of 50 mph, and slow strengthening is forecast in the next few days.

There are no coastal watches or warnings in effect for Leslie.

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