The following is the latest information on Tropical Storm Michael.
At 8 a.m. Monday, Tropical Storm Michael was located about 120 miles east of Cozumel, Mexico, or about 630 miles south of Panama City, in the Yucatan Channel.
Maximum sustained winds are near 70 mph and Michael is moving north at 7 mph.
Michael is expected to become a hurricane later this morning and is forecast to continue strengthening up until landfall. Landfall is currently forecast as a Category 2 with 110 mph, but a Category 3 is possible given the recent rapid intensification.
• Michael will continue to accelerate northward over the next 48 hours before making a turn towards the north-northeast or northeast as it makes landfall.
• Landfall is expected in the Panhandle or Big Bend sometime on Wednesday, and there remains some discrepancy in forward speed. A faster storm will make landfall on the western side of the forecast cone, where a slower storm will make more of a northeast turn into the Big Bend.
• Hurricane hunters will be investigating the system later this morning and again this evening.
• Much of the Florida Panhandle and Big Bend remain within the cone of error for landfall potential.
• An increase in swells and rip current risks from Michael are already present and wave heights will continue to increase through Thursday morning.
• Tropical storm conditions may arrive in the Panhandle as soon as Tuesday morning but no later than late Wednesday morning. If the track shifts eastward or expands in size, the Florida West Coast could experience tropical storm force winds tonight or early tomorrow morning. Hurricane conditions could arrive in the Panhandle Wednesday afternoon or evening.
Tropical Storm Wind Watches are in effect for seven counties along the Florida West Coast and two counties in the far eastern Big Bend. Hurricane Watches are in effect for 18 Panhandle and Big Bend counties between Pensacola and Cross City. These may be upgraded to warnings later today.
Storm surge will be one of the greatest impacts from this storm and may affect a large portion of the Florida Gulf Coast. Storm Surge Watches have been issued between Navarre (Okaloosa County) and Anna Maria Island (Manatee County) for possible surge inundation of 2-4 inches for the Tampa Bay region and western Panhandle, 4-7 inches for the eastern Panhandle coast, and 7-11 inches for Apalachee Bay and Nature Coast.
• Widespread rainfall totals of 4-8 inches with locally higher amounts of more than 8 to 10 inchyes can be expected across the Panhandle and Big Bend, with most of it occurring on Wednesday.
• Isolated tornadoes will be possible Tuesday-Thursday, but risk and where will depend on eventual track and intensity of the system (northeast quadrant relative to forward motion).
• Ocean swells from Tropical Storm Leslie and breezy onshore winds from high pressure to the north of Florida will continue producing a moderate to high risk of rip currents along all Atlantic beaches.
Another briefing packet will be issued later this afternoon. For the latest information on the tropics, please visit the National Hurricane Center website at www.hurricanes.gov.