Florida State closes campuses ahead of Hurricane Michael

MIAMI-A tropical storm off Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula has rapidly strengthened and could become a risky hurricane before an expected mid-week strike on the Gulf Coast in the Florida Panhandle, forecasters said Monday.

Manatee County and Anna Maria Island also were under a storm surge watch as of 6 a.m., and the storm surge watch stretches to Navarre.

A Tropical Storm Watch has been issued for the Alabama Gulf coast, while a Hurricane Watch has been issued for the northwestern coast of Florida.

The NHC forecasters said the storm has become better organized Monday morning, and the westerly wind shear that was supposed to curtail its strengthening hasn't had the desired effect.

Michael is expected to move over the Florida panhandle or Big Bend area Wednesday. "Michael is forecast to be near or at major hurricane strength when it reaches the northeastern Gulf of Mexico Tuesday night and Wednesday".

At its current rate of speed, tropical storm force winds should reach the northern Gulf Coast as early as Tuesday evening, after which conditions will steadily deteriorate.

A tropical storm warning was in effect for the Cuban provinces of Pinar del Rio and the Isle of Youth as well as the coast of Mexico from Tulum to Cabo Catoche. Under that track, the Tampa Bay area would still experience some wind, rain, and some coastal flooding. "This storm will be life-threatening and extremely unsafe", Scott said, according to ActionNewsJax. Scott also activated 500 members of the Florida National Guard ahead of the storm.

By the time Michael makes it to the Carolinas, the storm is going to be flying, which should help lower the flash flood potential, but Panovich still believes there could be flooding in the mountains and eastern Carolinas.

Michael's maximum sustained winds had reached 70 miles per hour, it said. The situation is a good example of how volatile a hurricane can be for a politician and illustrates the baggage that already exists as Michael approaches. A Category 1 hurricane has sustained winds of 74 to 95 miles per hour.

Democratic gubernatorial nominee and Tallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum said he's returning to his home city in the Panhandle to prepare for the storm. Current forecast guidance suggests a landfall near Panama City Beach early Wednesday.

The storm has maximum sustained winds of 50 miles per hour, and slow strengthening is forecast in the next few days.

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