Storm Michael could soon form, hit USA midweek

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"With the National Hurricane Center forecasting Tropical Depression 14 (Tropical Storm Michael) to strengthen and impact Florida's Panhandle as a hurricane, families need to get prepared", said Governor Rick Scott. Many trees will be snapped or uprooted, blocking numerous roads.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center says newly named Tropical Storm Michael could strengthen to a hurricane as it heads to the Florida Panhandle.

A major hurricane is a Category 5, 4 or 3 hurricane, which has winds of at least 111 miles per hour. Hurricane Hunters are collecting data on the storm, and that data will be fed into our forecast models.

A tropical storm is likely to develop in the northwestern Caribbean in coming days and could bring storm surge and heavy rainfall to the U.S. Gulf Coast by midweek, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said on Saturday. A hurricane watch is in effect from the Alabama-Florida border eastward to the Suwanee River, and tropical storm watches have been issued from the Suwanee River to Anna Maria Island and from the Alabama-Florida border to the Mississippi-Alabama border. Even though Hurricane Season ends November 30, it becomes rare for a system to push into the Central and West Gulf Coast after the first intact cold front of the fall.

Energy companies halted almost a fifth of Gulf of Mexico oil production and evacuated staff from 10 platforms on Monday as Michael was forecast to become the strongest of three named storms to affect the U.S. Gulf of Mexico this year. On average, the Atlantic would have about five hurricanes by October 8.

The latest wind speed probabilities show a 50/50 shot of winds of 40 miles per hour or greater, these chances could go up as we get greater confidence in the forecast.

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Voluntary, and in some cases, mandatory, evacuations were issued in some areas along the Florida Panhandle coast.

Florida State University said its campuses in Tallahassee and Panama City will be closed from Tuesday through Friday.

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey declared a statewide emergency on Monday ahead of the storm. "Tropical storm conditions are expected across the remainder of the warning areas in Cuba and the Yucatan Peninsula through tonight", the center said.

The hurricane center warned that the storm could produce a foot of rain in western Cuba, potentially triggering flash floods and mudslides in mountainous areas.

Wind shear, which has slowed the storm's development so far, is forecast to relax, which should also enable the storm to gain strength. Officials also alerted residents living on the coast of the possibility of flooding caused by the storm.