Possible hurricane, now a tropical depression, could impact Gulf Coast by midweek

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The storm is expected to strengthen to hurricane status before making a predicted landfall in the western Florida Panhandle on Wednesday.

"There is an increasing risk of unsafe storm surge, rainfall and wind impacts over portions of the northern Gulf Coast by mid-week, although it is too soon to specify the exact location and magnitude of these impacts", the hurricane center advisory said.

Michael is now about 90 miles south of Cozumel, Mexico.

In a news conference Sunday evening in Tallahassee, Florida Gov. Rick Scott warned that the storm could have far-reaching effects, regardless of where it lands.

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

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"Our state understands how serious tropical weather is and how devastating any hurricane or tropical storm can be", Scott said.

The National Hurricane Center began issuing advisories on the system Saturday afternoon as a Potential Tropical Cyclone and upgraded it to Depression 14 and then Tropical Storm Michael. As of the 5 p.m. update from the National Hurricane Center, our area has a 20-30 percent chance of feeling tropical-storm-force winds.

Once it reaches land, Michael is forecast to weaken into a tropical storm when it passes through the East Coast, including the NY metro area by Friday morning.

Packing winds of 50 mph, the storm was about 130 miles southeast of Cozumel, Mexico, on Sunday afternoon, crawling to the north-northeast at 3 mph. Maximum sustained winds are 40 miles per hour with higher gusts. Two factors will be critical in clarifying the forecast over the next day or so. Michael is expected to resume a slow northward trek Sunday while picking up speed in the coming days, according to the hurricane center.

An area of disturbed weather in the western Caribbean developed into Tropical Depression 14 early Sunday morning. The system could be a hurricane by Tuesday night or Wednesday. Forecast show it remaining a tropical storm as it tracks across the region.

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