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Michael upgraded to Category 1 hurricane; expected to continue to strengthen as it approaches US

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MIAMI – The National Hurricane Center says Michael is now a hurricane and will continue to strengthen as it approaches the U.S this week.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency for 26 counties as Tropical Storm Michael lashed Cuba.

Michael, which formed near the Yucatan Peninsula on Sunday, is expected to dump 4 to 8 inches of rain -- and as much as 12 inches in some areas -- on western Cuba before it hits the United States.

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.
Water being forced on shore by the storm could get trapped in estuaries and rivers and pushed inland.

According to the forecast, parts of the Tampa Bay area and the western Florida Panhandle also could see up to 4 feet (1.2 meters) of storm surge.

'Everybody's got to get ready'

Scott warned that Michael could reach land as a Category 2 hurricane, with winds in excess of 100 mph.

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

"This storm has the potential to bring devastating impacts to communities across the Panhandle and Big Bend and every family must be prepared."

Scott activated 500 National Guard troops in advance of the storm.

"Everybody's got to get ready. Don't take a chance," he said. "We're going to get storm surge, we have wind, we have a chance of flooding, we have a significant chance of tornadoes."

The governor declared a state of emergency for Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, Walton, Holmes, Washington, Bay, Jackson, Calhoun, Gulf, Gadsden, Liberty, Franklin, Leon, Wakulla, Jefferson, Madison, Taylor, Hamilton, Suwannee, Lafayette, Dixie, Columbia, Gilchrist, Levy and Citrus counties.