Storm Michael could soon form, hit US midweek

A tropical storm that formed rapidly off Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula has gained strength and could become a unsafe Category 2 hurricane with an expected midweek strike on the Gulf Coast over the Florida Panhandle, forecasters say.

According to the latest forecast from the National Hurricane Center, Tropical Depression 14 is expected to strengthen into a hurricane before making landfall in the western Florida Panhandle on Wednesday. Another 5,500 were available if needed.

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

"If any Florida family doesn't have an emergency preparedness plan, now is the time to act", Scott said in the release.

The NHC said that Michael is expected to "spread heavy rains over Western Cuba" on October 7.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center on Sunday upgraded Tropical Depression Michael to a named tropical storm, saying Michael earlier had winds of up to 50 miles per hour (85 kph). Michael's center will move over the Yucatan Channel on Monday and then across the eastern Gulf of Mexico late Monday through Tuesday night, and approach the northeastern Gulf coast on Wednesday.

Michael's trek to Florida is also affecting politics in the state.

However, over the next 24 hours or so, those winds are expected to subside and become more favorable, and additional strengthening of this system is expected as it passes across the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

Assuming Michael does not deviate from the current forecast path, Anna Maria Island, including Tampa Bay, will see the storm's effect, with that area placed under Tropical Storm and Storm Surge watches.

Wind shear, which has slowed the storm's development so far, is forecast to relax, which should also enable the storm to gain strength.

But it's so big, people about 175 miles away from the center are getting hit with tropical-storm-force winds (which have increased to at least 60 mph). It was moving to the north at 5 miles per hour.

A Tropical Storm Warning means that tropical storm conditions are expected somewhere within the warning area, in this case within the next 12 hours.

The National Hurricane Center said almost "all of the intensity models bring the cyclone to hurricane strength over the Gulf of Mexico in two to three days, and the NHC forecast follows suit".

Godsey said winds in the tropical storm range could result in downed trees and power outages.

Vanessa Coleman