Tropical Storm Michael may grow into major Gulf hurricane

Tropical Storm Michael is on track to turn into a hurricane as it heads toward Florida, the National Hurricane Center said Monday.

Tropical Storm Michael has max sustained winds of 70 miles per hour and is moving north at 7mph.

The storm is expected to dump 4 to 8 inches of rain on Cuba, with some areas of the island nation seeing up to a foot of water. Michael will move across the eastern Gulf of Mexico Tuesday and Tuesday night, and is expected to move inland over the Florida Panhandle or Florida Big Bend area on Wednesday, and then move northeastward across the southeastern United States Wednesday night and Thursday.Data from an Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter aircraft indicate that maximum sustained winds have increased to near 75 miles per hour (120 km/h) with higher gusts.

After hitting Florida, Michael will move north-eastward across the southeastern part of the country Wednesday night and Thursday, according to the NHC.

Areas to the east of where the storm center tracks will experience the greatest storm surge, and flooding will be worst around the high tides.

A hurricane watch stretches from the Alabama/Florida border (between Mobile and Pensacola) eastward to the Suwannee River, and hurricane warnings will likely follow for most or all of the area.

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A Tropical Storm Watch is in effect for the Suwannee River to Anna Maria Island, Florida, including Tampa Bay.

The hurricane centre warned that the storm could produce up to 30 centimetres of rain in western Cuba, potentially triggering flash floods and mudslides in mountainous areas.

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, who is the Democratic nominee for governor, had planned to campaign in South Florida Monday and Tuesday, but he said he would return to Tallahassee to help with storm preparations. "If this storm hit Panama City, Tampa could still have storm surge".

Rick Scott issued an order for a state of emergency for 26 counties to rush preparations in the Florida Panhandle and the Big Bend area, freeing up resources and activating 500 members of the Florida National Guard.

"Michael expected to become a hurricane very soon", the National Hurricane Center announced in its 8 a.m. bulletin in Monday. Tropical storm winds extended out 280 kilometres from the storm's centre.

The Gulf of Mexico is home to 17 percent of crude oil and 5 percent of natural gas output daily, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

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