UPDATE: Tropical Storm Michael aims for Gulf; Florida prepares for Category 2 hurricane on Panhandle

UPDATE: Tropical Storm Michael aims for Gulf; Florida prepares for Category 2 hurricane on Panhandle

11 p.m. UPDATE: Florida Gov. Rick Scott today warned that Tropical Storm Michael, which appears to be headed for the Florida Panhandle, could become a Category 2 hurricane with winds up to 100 miles per hour by the time it makes landfall at midweek.

Scott issued an order for a state of emergency for 26 counties in the Panhandle and Big Bend area. The declaration will free up resources for storm preparation.

“This storm will be life-threatening and extremely dangerous,” Scott said after receiving a briefing at the State Emergency Operations Center.

The governor warned that storm surge could affect areas of Florida not in the storm’s direct path.


“If this storm hit Panama City, Tampa could still have storm surge,” said Scott, referring to two Florida cities about 375 miles apart by highway. “Every family must be prepared.”

Scott also activated 500 members of the Florida National Guard ahead of the storm.

At 11 p.m., Michael had winds of up to 60 mph as it moved toward the north near 5 mph. It was about 135 miles south-southwest of the western tip of Cuba.

The storm is expected to further strengthen into a hurricane by Monday night or Tuesday as its center moves over the Yucatan Channel, crosses the Gulf of Mexico and nears the Florida Panhandle coast sometime Wednesday.

Forecasters advised residents along the northeastern and central U.S. Gulf Coast to monitor the storm’s progress.

Tallahassee opened two locations where residents could get sandbags in case of flooding. “While the impacts are still uncertain, our area could experience increased wind activity and heavy rainfall, which could cause localized flooding and downed trees,” Tallahassee officials said in a statement.

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, the Democratic nominee for governor, had planned to campaign in South Florida on Monday and Tuesday, but he said he would return to Tallahassee to help with storm preparations.

UPDATE: Tropical Storm Michael his 60 mph as it threatens Cuba, eyes Gulf landfall as hurricane

8 p.m. UPDATE: Tropical Storm Michael has strengthened to 60 mph as it threatens western Cuba with heavy rain, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami. The threat to the northeastern Gulf of Mexico continues to increase, the latetst advisory says.

RELATED: Florida Gov. Rick Scott declares state of emergency in Panhandle, activates National Guard

Interests along the northeastern and central U.S. Gulf coast should monitor the progress of Michael, the hurricane center said.

NEW: Storm threat forces Florida candidates to alter campaigns

At 8 p.m., the center of Michael was about 140 miles south-southwest of the western tip of Cuba. It was moving toward the north near 5 mph. A general northward motion with some increase in forward speed is expected over the next few days.


On the current forecast track, the center of Michael will move over the Yucatan Channel on Monday, then across the eastern Gulf of Mexico late Monday through Tuesday night. It could approach the northeastern Gulf coast of the United States on Wednesday.

Gradual strengthening is expected during the next few days, and Michael is forecast to become a hurricane Monday night or Tuesday.

RELATED: Tropical Storm Michael could threaten Carolinas after landfall in Florida Panhandle as hurricane

UPDATE, 5 p.m.: Tropical Storm Michael has gained strength, with maximum sustained winds of 50 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center’s latest forecast.

Following data-gathering from an Air Force Reserve reconnaissance aircraft this afternoon, forecasters are saying that additional strengthening is expected in the next few days, and Michael may become a hurricane as early as Monday night.

The 5 p.m. advisory for Tropical Storm Michael.

The storm is now 130 miles northeast of Cozumel, Mexico and 190 miles south-southwest of the western tip of Cuba. It’s traveling north-northeast at 3 mph.

Closer to home, Michael is expected to dump as much as two inches of rain on Boca Raton beginning Monday through Wednesday. West Palm Beach, Jupiter and Belle Glade could get an estimated 1.5 inches.

In addition, higher tides could also factor into South Florida conditions, with the possibility of King Tides creating a coastal flooding concern.

UPDATE, 4 p.m.: Andrew Gillum, the Democratic candidate for Florida’s governor, has canceled two campaign stops in South Florida. He is returning to Tallahassee to prepare the city and residents for Michael in his role as the city’s mayor.

UPDATE, 1 p.m.: The tropical system making its way into the Caribbean and possibly into the Florida panhandle is now Tropical Storm Michael.

As of 1 p.m., the system strengthened into a tropical storm, with maximum winds of 40 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center.

The 2 p.m. forecast after Michael became a tropical storm.

An Air Force Reserve hurricane hunter is on its way to investigate the storm.

It is currently 90 miles south of Cozumel, Mexico and 225 miles southwest of the western tip of Cuba. It is traveling north at 5 mph.

According to the News Service of Florida, Gov. Rick Scott said he will declare a state of emergency for the Panhandle. “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,” Scott said in a statement. “Our state understands how serious tropical weather is and how devastating any hurricane or tropical storm can be.”

ORIGINAL STORY: If it becomes a tropical storm as predicted, Tropical Depression Fourteen is expected to bring squally, wet weather to South Florida beginning later today, according to Robert Garcia, senior meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

The storm at 10 a.m. was travelling with 35-mph winds. Heavy rainfall should hit the western portions of Cuba as it moves north.


The National Hurricane Center is predicting it will gain strength and become Tropical Storm Michael by tonight, and should head into the Gulf of Mexico late Monday. It could become a hurricane by Tuesday night.

Garcia said the tropical storm has the potential to produce gusty winds, heavy rain and flooding in South Florida, as well as possible isolated tornadoes through mid-week.

Hazardous marine conditions in the Atlantic and Gulf coasts and high-risk rip currents also will continue to be a threat.


Due to the King Tides — exceptionally high tides — along both coasts, coastal flooding also could be a concern.

Today’s forecast for Palm Beach County includes a 20 to 30 percent chance of rain with highs in the upper 80s. Beginning Monday and continuing through Thursday, the chance of showers jumps up to 60 to 70 percent.

Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Leslie continues its easterly path across the central Atlantic with maximum sustained winds of 60 mph. At this time it is no threat to land.