Michael expected to gain hurricane strength as it approaches Florida

Chance of tropical depression or tropical storm developing in Gulf has increased

In the United States, a storm surge watch has been issued from Navarre, Florida to Anna Maria Island, Florida.

Right now, the National Hurricane Center predicts a landfall along the Florida panhandle on Wednesday.

The latest forecast cone from the National Hurricane Center has Michael moving through Middle Georgia as a tropical storm late Wednesday into Thursday.

The storm was located by 11 p.m. ET Sunday about 105 miles (165 kilometers) east-southeast of Cozumel, Mexico and moving to the north at about 5 mph (7 kph).

Since the storm will spend two to three days over the Gulf, "there is a real possibility that Michael will strengthen to a major hurricane before landfall", Berg wrote.

The state of emergency covers 26 counties in the Florida Panhandle and Big Bend areas. Michael could reach or be close to a Category 3 by Tuesday night or Wednesday. Michael could dump up to eight inches of rain, with 12 inches possible in some areas. Those tropical storm effects will extend inland across southern Georgia and into SC - the storm will pick up speed as it's carried at the tail end of a cold front.

Governor Scott says all Floridians need to be prepared, in case the storm shifts.

Michael is expected to become a hurricane late Monday or early Tuesday, according to the center.

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By 11 a.m. Monday, Michael's top sustained winds were around 75 miles per hour.

The tropical storm has maximum sustained winds of 70 miles per hour as of 5 a.m. on Monday.

If it becomes a tropical storm as predicted, Tropical Depression Fourteen is expected to bring squally, wet weather to South Florida beginning later today, according to Robert Garcia, senior meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

Rick Scott announced Sunday that he will issue an executive order declaring a state of emergency for counties in the Florida Panhandle and Big Bend as the state continues to prepare and monitor the storm.

"This storm will be life-threatening and extremely unsafe", Scott said in a news briefing. He warned that storm surge could affect areas of Florida not in the storm's direct path.

We'll be tracking Michael closely as it churns toward the northern Gulf Coast, so stick with ABC7 for updates. The Panhandle then will face the full set of threats from a land-falling hurricane- damaging winds, widespread power outages, storm surge, flooding rain and isolated tornadoes.

It triggered flash-flooding warnings for that area and western Cuba.

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