Hurricane Michael expected to strengthen as it approaches Florida

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Forecasters say the powerful storm could bring heavy rainfall, storm surge and "dangerous" winds increasing for the northeastern Gulf Coast.

The Florida Panhandle is on alert as Tropical Storm Michael works its way to the northern part of the Sunshine State.

"Michael is forecast to be a hurricane, and possibly a major hurricane when it reaches the northeastern Gulf Coast by mid-week, and storm surge and hurricane watches are now in effect for portions of the area", the Center added. "Families should take the opportunity TODAY to make sure they have three days of food and water, as well as all needed medications", he tweeted.

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

Hurricane watches have been posted from the Alabama/Florida border to Suwannee River, Florida which is just to the northwest of Cedar Key on Florida's west coast. On Monday morning, the National Hurricane Center issued a Storm Surge Watch from Navarre to Anna Maria Island, including Tampa Bay. "We're going to get storm surge, we have wind, we have a chance of flooding, we have a significant chance of tornadoes".

Scott warned that Michael could reach land as a Category 2 hurricane, with winds in excess of 100 miles per hour.

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This is a map showing the forecast cone for Hurricane Michael, which strengthened from a tropical storm. The storm's tropical storm-force winds extended 175 miles from its center.

"A northward motion at a slightly faster forward speed is expected through Tuesday night, followed by a northeastward motion on Wednesday and Thursday", the NHC said in its Monday morning advisory. It was moving north around 11 kph.

A Tropical Storm Watch has been issued from the Suwanee River to Anna Maria Island, including Tampa Bay. The Florida Panhandle and Big Bend areas are expected to receive as much as 12 inches of rain and may see flash flooding. "The winds from the storm will thus be able to pile up a large storm surge along the east side of the storm's center".

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, who is also the Democratic gubernatorial candidate in the November 6 elections, said on Sunday he was cancelling his campaign events and returning to Tallahassee, the state capital, to focus on storm preparations.

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

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