First Alert Weather: Michael forecast to become a major hurricane, impact Suncoast

Courtesy MGN

Courtesy MGN

Michael could strengthen into a major hurricane with winds topping 178 kph by Tuesday night before an expected strike on Florida's Panhandle or Big Bend, according to the National Hurricane Center.

A storm surge watch has been hoisted from Navarre, Florida, to Anna Maria Island, Florida, including Tampa Bay.

A Tropical Storm Watch has been issued from the Suwanee River to Anna Maria Island, including Tampa Bay.

The storm was located by 2 a.m. ET Monday about 105 miles (170 kilometers) east-southeast of Cozumel, Mexico, and moving to the north at about 4 mph (6 kph).

Hurricane Michael, a rapidly developing storm coming out of Central America, is looking more likely to pose a serious threat to the Florida Panhandle, forecasters say. The storm's tropical storm-force winds extended 175 miles from its center.

"Hurricane conditions will spread over portions of western Cuba this afternoon, where a hurricane warning is now in effect".

On Sunday, Governor Rick Scott declared a state of emergency for 26 counties in North Florida and around the big Bend, to establish time, resources and flexibility for government agencies to prepare for the storm.

Once the storm makes landfall, some projections estimate that it could make its way across Georgia and into North and SC before moving out into the Atlantic ocean.

Steady to rapid strengthening is forecast during the next day or so, and Michael is forecast to become a major hurricane by Tuesday or Tuesday night.

Michael battered parts of Mexico and Cuba with powerful winds and drenching rains on Sunday and into early Monday as it churned in the Caribbean.

The storm is moving north at 7 miles per hour and has maximum sustained winds of 75 miles per hour.

With these additions, the state of emergency includes 35 Florida counties in total.

Past year saw a string of catastrophic storms batter the western Atlantic - including Irma, Maria and Hurricane Harvey - causing a record-equaling $125 billion in damage when it flooded the Houston metropolitan area.

The university announced Monday that its main Tallahassee and Panama City campuses will close at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday and remain closed for the rest of the week.

For all the latest information on Hurricane Michael visit the National Hurricane Center online. "Don't take a chance", he said.

The Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency is actively monitoring what has recently developed into Hurricane Michael.

"All indications are that it's going to be severe", said City Commissioner Gil Ziffer, adding that if the storm hits Florida's capital, there would be significant tree damage and power outages.

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