Tropical Storm Michael Will Become a Hurricane Monday

"This storm will be life-threatening and extremely risky", Scott said at a press briefing.

A Hurricane Watch has been issued from the Alabama-Florida border eastward to the Suwannee River. On the forecast track, the center of Michael will move northward near the western tip of Cuba this afternoon and into the southeastern Gulf of Mexico by tonight.

A storm is designated a Category 1 hurricane if it reaches speeds of 74 miles per hour (119 kph) or more, and a Category 3 hurricane at 111 miles per hour (178 kph) or more on the five-step Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale. Michael will move across the eastern Gulf of Mexico Tuesday and Tuesday night, and is expected to move inland over the Florida Panhandle or Florida Big Bend area on Wednesday, and then move northeastward across the southeastern United States Wednesday night and Thursday.Data from an Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter aircraft indicate that maximum sustained winds have increased to near 75 miles per hour (120 km/h) with higher gusts.

In a news conference Sunday evening in Tallahassee, Florida Gov. Rick Scott warned that the storm could have far-reaching effects, and could have a "devastating impact to communities across the Panhandle and Big Bend" — regardless of where it lands.

"If this storm hit Panama City, Tampa could still have storm surge", said Scott, referring to two Florida cities about 600 kilometres apart by highway.

"Michael expected to become a hurricane very soon", the National Hurricane Center announced in its 8 a.m. bulletin.

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The center of Michael is expected to move across the Yucatán Channel - a strait between Mexico and Cuba - Monday, slowly making its way across the eastern Gulf of Mexico through Wednesday.

"Everybody's got to get ready".

Areas to the east of where the storm center tracks will experience the greatest storm surge, and flooding will be worst around the high tides. Florida has already declared an emergency in 26 counties.

And during a Monday morning meeting with the EOC, Scott announced he has activated the state assistance information line to provide additional resources for residents concerned with Michaels status.

Ken Graham says the storm's large size, strong winds and heavy rains could produce a lot of flooding, and the shape of this stretch of coastline makes it particularly vulnerable to storm surge. The forecast projects Tallahassee, where Gillum is mayor, will be directly hit.

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