Michael expected to gain hurricane strength as it approaches Florida

Hurricane Michael is now moving into the southern Gulf of Mexico and will strengthen possibly into a Category 2.

By late Monday morning, Michael had become a hurricane, and forecasters at the National Hurricane Center now officially expect it to be a major Category 3 by Wednesday.

"Citizens can not accept new policies or policy changes for additional coverage when a tropical storm or hurricane watch or warning has been issued by the National Weather Service for any part of Florida", the states second-largest homeowners insurance company wrote on its site Monday. The risk of life-threatening storm surge, heavy rainfall, and unsafe winds is increasing for the northeastern Gulf Coast.

A tropical storm that rapidly formed southwest of Cuba could become a risky Category 2 hurricane by the time of an expected midweek landfall on the Gulf Coast in the Florida Panhandle.

Hurricane Michael is now a Category 1 hurricane as of the 2 PM advisory from the National Hurricane Center.

Michael is forecast to make landfall by midweek in Florida's Panhandle or Big Bend.

The storm was located by 2 a.m. ET Monday about 105 miles (170 kilometers) east-southeast of Cozumel, Mexico, and moving to the north at about 4 mph (6 kph).

A hurricane watch is in effect for the Alabama-Florida border to Suwannee River in Florida.

The north Florida city of Tallahassee on Sunday opened two locations where residents could get sandbags in case of flooding.

Michael is now officially a Category 1 hurricane, and is expected to be a Category 3 when it makes landfall Wednesday.

As the track stands right now, tropical storm force winds will be the main concern.

The storm now has maximum sustained winds of 75 miles per hour.

More information on the specific impacts of Hurricane Michael will be available as the storm gets closer to Horry.

As the storm turns northeast near the Florida panhandle, the winds will shift southwest.

"Michael is expected to produce heavy rainfall and flash flooding over portions of western Cuba and the northeastern Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico during the next couple of days". Also, there could be some storm surge from Michael, hitting already damaged beaches, Pfaff said.

ABC News added that The National Hurricane Center estimates that the storm surge from Michael could be anywhere between seven and 11 feet high in some areas.

Hurricane conditions will spread across the far western part of the Cuban province of Pinar del Rio this afternoon and evening.

Vanessa Coleman

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