A tropical storm that rapidly formed off Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula has gained new strength and could become a unsafe Category 2 hurricane with an expected midweek strike on the Gulf Coast in the Florida Panhandle, forecasts say. There's also a warning in effect for the coast of Mexico from Tulum to Cabo Catoche.
The warm waters could intensify the storm to near major hurricane status before landfall late Wednesday somewhere near Florida's big bend although the cone of uncertainty covers the panhandle.
A tropical storm watch means that tropical storm conditions are possible within the watch area, generally within 48 hours. "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.
The National Hurricane Center said the storm is predicted to lead to heavy rainfall and flash flooding in parts of western Cuba and the northeastern Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico before moving north in the Gulf.
As of 11 p.m. Sunday, Tropical Storm Michael was centered about 105 miles east-southeast of Cozumel, Mexico, the National Hurricane Center said.
Currently, the storm is moving north at 7 miles per hour. Michael today has exhibited maximum sustained winds of 40 miles per hour.
Tropical Storm Michael has formed in the northwestern Caribbean as of early Sunday afternoon.
Tropical Storm Micheal is "almost a hurricane" moving into the Gulf of Mexico on Monday morning, and weather advisories are already starting to crop up for the Lowcountry.
Michael is the 13th named tropical storm or hurricane of the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season.
"With the National Hurricane Center forecasting Tropical Depression 14 (Tropical Storm Michael) to strengthen and impact Florida's Panhandle as a hurricane, families need to get prepared", said Governor Rick Scott.
The "risk of unsafe storm surge, rainfall, and wind impacts continues to increase", the National Hurricane Center warned Sunday.
The current forecast would bring Michael into the region as a moderate to strong tropical storm.
Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum canceled campaign events in South Florida on Monday and Tuesday to prepare for the storm, his campaign said.