Potential Gulf hurricane prompts state of emergency

A Tropical Depression Expected to Form in the Northwestern Caribbean Sea Tonight or Sunday, Heavy Rains Heading For Western Cuba

Storm Michael could soon form, hit U.S. midweek

Tropical Storm Michael's winds increased to 70 miles per hour Monday morning as it nears hurricane strength.

Its maximum sustained winds were measured at 70 miles per hour. "There will be a significant threat along the coast of hurricane force winds, storm surge that could be exceed 6 to 12 feet in some locations, rains totaling 4" - 8" with local amounts up to 12", and isolated tornadoes.

WIND: Tropical storm conditions are expected to first reach the coast within the warning area by this evening or tonight, making outside preparations hard or unsafe. The exact path and timing of Michael's arrival and impacts will depend on forward motion of the storm. On the forecast track, on Monday, the storm will move over the Yucatan Channel and then across the eastern Gulf of Mexico late Monday through Tuesday night, and approach the United States northeastern Gulf coast on Wednesday.

In a morning update, National Hurricane Center forecasters said a hurricane hunter plane discovered early Monday that the storm had intensified despite upper levels winds expected to keep it in check.

The Florida Keys are expected to get 2 to 4 inches of rain, and the Yucatan Peninsula could get 1 to 2 inches of rain. The storm went from 40 mph on Sunday to 75 mph on Monday and is expected to undergo rapid intensification again in the next 24 hours.

At 11 p.m. EDT Sunday, Michael was about 105 miles (165 kilometers) east-southeast of Cozumel, Mexico.

Southwest's waiver also covers flights at Cancun, Mexico, and Havana, Cuba, though waiver dates are different for those airports. As of Monday morning, Michael was moving north at 7mph with maximum winds near hurricane strength.

For storm information specific to your area outside the United States, please monitor products issued by your national meteorological service.DISCUSSION AND OUTLOOK -- At 1100 AM EDT (1500 UTC), the center of Hurricane Michael was located near latitude 21.2 North, longitude 84.9 West. Michael is moving toward the north near 7 miles per hour (11 km/h).

Rick Scott says Michael is a "monstrous storm" that has the potential to be devastating to the Florida Panhandle.

The storm is aiming at a region that stretches from Mobile, Alabama, through the Florida Panhandle and into the Big Bend area of northern Florida.

The storm brewing in the Caribbean strengthened to become Tropical Storm Michael about noon on Sunday, and experts now expect it to develop into a hurricane that could impact the Carolinas. That wind shear will gradually weaken and Michael will tap into the warm Gulf water and quickly become a hurricane by this afternoon, and could flirt with Category 3 status Tuesday into Wednesday before making landfall somewhere along the Florida Panhandle Wednesday or Thursday.

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