Tropical Storm Michael nears hurricane strength as Florida prepares

Tropical development likely in the Gulf over the next few days	 	 	 			Tropical development is looking more likely this week

The big picture on where the storm is expected to go has also shifted some since Saturday afternoon, when tracking showed Michael crossing the Florida Panhandle and southern Alabama as a tropical storm. Stay with tampabay.com for updates.

As of the 11 a.m. advisory Monday, the NHC upgraded Michael to a category 1 hurricane, with winds of 75 miles per hour.

The NHC said Michael could still grow stronger before it reaches the Florida coast. Western Cuba could see isolated maximum amounts of 12 inches, the center said.

Lowndes County can expect "at least" 40 miles per hour winds, with gusts to hurricane strength, and three to five inches of rain when the storm moves through the county Wednesday, said Kelly Godsey, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service's Tallahassee, Fla., office.

With Hurricane Michael rapidly intensifying and threatening to smash Florida's Panhandle with risky storm surge, flooding and winds, Gov. Rick Scott didn't mince words on Monday night: "Making decisions tomorrow might be too late". It was about 990 miles east-northeast of Bermuda and about 1,170 miles west of the Azores, with maximum sustained winds of 50 mph. A warning for the coast of Mexico from Tulum to Cabo Catoche, was canceled late Monday.

Southwest's waiver also covers flights at Cancun, Mexico, and Havana, Cuba, though waiver dates are different for those airports.

The storm at 8 a.m. was travelling with 35-mph winds.

A Tropical Storm Warning means that tropical storm conditions are expected somewhere within the warning area, in this case within the next 12 hours.

Michael's maximum sustained winds increased to 90 miles per hour on Monday night, the National Hurricane Center reported in its 11 p.m. EST update.

Officials believe the storm could strengthen into a Category 2 hurricane by the time it makes landfall midweek.

Michael is forecast to contribute to higher seas, rough surf and rip currents locally by Monday, then increased chances for rainier conditions overall across eastern Central Florida Tuesday through Thursday, the weather Service said.

Forecasters are calling on Florida Gulf Coast residents to monitor the storm's approach, warning of the possibility of storm surge, heavy rains and risky winds as it approaches the U.S. Southeast.

The region could see storm surge, rain and wind as early as late Tuesday, though forecasters noted the time frame of the storm is still in flux.

Strengthening is forecast during the next couple of days, and the system is expected to become a tropical depression later tonight or on Sunday and a tropical storm on Sunday night.

An intensifying storm system that became Tropical Storm Michael Sunday afternoon is setting its sights on the northern Gulf Coast, and forecasters say it could be a Category 2 hurricane when it makes landfall.

According to the 5 a.m. advisory from the National Hurricane Center, Michael was close to becoming a hurricane.

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