Michael strengthens into a hurricane, menaces Florida

Tropical Storm Michael may threaten Gulf Coast in the coming week

It is expected to move into Middle Georgia, potentially, as a tropical storm by late Wednesday or Thursday.

Tropical storm force winds are possible as early as Wednesday.

Wind shear, which has slowed the storm's development so far, is forecast to relax, which should also enable the storm to gain strength.

It could become a hurricane by Tuesday night.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center on Sunday upgraded Michael from a tropical depression to a named tropical storm, saying Michael had winds of up to 50 miles per hour (85 kph). Michael could become a hurricane by Tuesday night or Wednesday, the NHC said in a Sunday afternoon advisory.

Residents of Florida's Panhandle frantically filled sandbags, boarded up homes and secured boats in harbors Monday as they anxiously awaited Hurricane Michael, which forecasters warned could smash into the northeast Gulf Coast as a unsafe major hurricane within days. Michael is moving toward the north at 5.0 miles per hour (7.0 kph), with maximum sustained winds of 60 miles per hour (95 kph) and a minimum central pressure that has fallen to 997 MB or 29.44 inches. The Weather Service said the storm also could contribute to minor coastal flooding early in the week, in part because of the astronomical high tides that were already forecast to occur before the storm's formation.

Florida's State Emergency Operations Center will activate to a Level 2 Sunday morning which means the State Emergency Response Team (SERT) has activated, enhancing coordination between federal, state and local emergency management agencies. A storm surge of up to 12 feet is forecast for a large section of the Florida coast.

The National Hurricane Center indicates that Tropical Depression 14 has strengthened and is now Tropical Storm Michael, centered over the northwest Caribbean Sea.

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Michael, now a Category 1 hurricane slashing Cuba, is forecast to be a "dangerous major hurricane" when it smacks the US Gulf Coast on Wednesday, the National Hurricane Center said.

Tropical Storm watches were extended to include the MS coastal counties with the 4 p.m. update from the National Hurricane Center.

Rick Scott declared a state of emergency in more than 20 counties along the Florida Panhandle and Big Bend on Sunday and has put more than 5,000 National Guard soldiers on alert.

Elsewhere, the hurricane center is monitoring two areas of low pressure.

The Florida panhandle will be hardest hit, with parts of the Tallahassee and Panama City areas getting 12 inches of rainfall along with damaging winds.

Scott had already announced Sunday morning he would declare a state of emergency due to the storm.

Since Michael will be moving so fast there is a chance for tropical storm winds here in the Carolinas gusting over 35 miles per hour.

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