Tropical Storm Michael has formed in the northwestern Caribbean as of early Sunday afternoon.
How rapid this intensification may be will be telling for the eventual strength achieved by hurricane Michael over the coming days, with many meteorologists suggesting that once the storm passes Cuba there is little but relatively favourable conditions between hurricane Michael and a strong category landfall.
The NHC says that maximum sustained winds have increased to near 75 miles per hour with higher gusts.
A tropical storm that rapidly formed off Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula has gained new strength and could become a risky Category 2 hurricane with an expected midweek strike on the Gulf Coast in the Florida Panhandle, forecasts say. Wind speeds are expected to gain momentum over the next two days with the cyclone expected to "become a hurricane Monday night or Tuesday", the center noted in its advisory.
Despite approaching Florida from the Gulf Coast side, Tropical Storm Michael is expected to have some impact on Northeast Florida. 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. Tuesday and Wednesday's forecasts will be highly dependent on the track.
Michael became the 13th named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season Sunday afternoon and has it sights set on the northern Gulf Coast by Wednesday.
The NHC has now issued a hurricane warning for Cuba and a hurricane watch for the Florida Panhandle coast.
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Governor Rick Scott has issued a state of emergency for 26 counties in the Big Bend and Florida Panhandle ahead of Tropical Storm Michael. It's too early for a definitive forecast, but now it appears the system will continue to move north into the Gulf through the day Sunday and come close to the Louisiana and Mississippi Gulf Coast before shifting east with an approaching cold front.
"This storm will be life-threatening and extremely risky", Scott said in a news briefing.
When looking at the forecast cone, remember this represents where the center of the storm will go, and it could be anywhere within the cone of uncertainty.
Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, Florida's Democratic nominee for governor, had planned to campaign in South Florida on Monday and Tuesday, but instead threw himself into helping his city's residents fill sandbags and get their storm preparations completed.
Michael is not expected to produce an excess of rain in Polk, though isolated spots could see more than an inch of precipitation, Fleming said. "Later today, I will receive a full update and briefing on the forecast and potential impacts of the storm from federal, state and local emergency management officials".
In North Carolina, still reeling from the destruction of Hurricane Florence last month, Gov. Roy Cooper warned that Michael could bring moderate storm surge, downed trees and power outages to his sodden state.