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Michael expected to gain hurricane strength as it approaches Florida

Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center in Miami say Michael will move over very warm waters and could strengthen into a major hurricane with winds topping 111 miles per hour (178 kph) by Tuesday night.

It is expected that Michael, now centered about 90 miles east of Cozumel, Mexico, will dump four to eight inches of rain, with totals reaching more than 12 inches in isolated areas, potentially causing "life-threatening" flash floods and mudslides, according to the National Hurricane Center.

In a Sunday presser, Scott, who has activated 500 National Guard troops, warned that Michael-which the Weather Channel noted "rapidly intensified" from Sunday into Monday morning-could come ashore as a Category 2 hurricane, with winds gusting at more than 100mph.

Astronomical King Tide cycles will cause extra high storm surge on portions of the Florida Gulf Coast with the highest 7-11 foot surge near Apalachicola to Crystal River, 4-6 feet near Crystal River to Anclote River, and 2-4 feet around Tampa Bay. Michael will move across the eastern Gulf of Mexico Tuesday and Tuesday night, and is expected to move inland over the Florida Panhandle or Florida Big Bend area on Wednesday, and then move northeastward across the southeastern United States Wednesday night and Thursday.Data from an Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter aircraft indicate that maximum sustained winds have increased to near 75 miles per hour (120 km/h) with higher gusts.

Forecasters expect the tropical storm to become a hurricane on Monday.

Scott issued an order for a state of emergency for 26 counties in the Florida Panhandle and the Big Bend area.

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An Air Force hurricane hunter airplane was sent into the storm to investigate, the hurricane centre said.

Tropical storm watches are in effect from from the Alabama/Florida line to the Alabama/Mississippi line and from the Suwannee River to Tampa Bay. Tropical storm watches extend farther south through the Tampa Bay area to Anna Maria Island and, to the west, along the Alabama coast.

Not only is the coastline in danger, so are inland areas of Florida, Alabama and Georgia, forecasters warn.

"This storm will be life-threatening and extremely risky", Scott said after receiving a briefing at the State Emergency Operations Center in Tallahassee. As we have seen before, it can change direction and impact any part of our state", Scott tweeted Monday morning, adding, "EVERY FAMILY must be prepared.

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

The storm will head northward and pick up speed Tuesday evening.



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