Published: Thu, October 11, 2018

Updated***Tropical Storm Michael threatens Panhandle, Big Bend

Updated***Tropical Storm Michael threatens Panhandle, Big Bend

"With the National Hurricane Center forecasting Tropical Depression 14 to strengthen and impact Floridas Panhandle as a hurricane, families need to get prepared", the governor said in a release.

Air Force Reserve reconnaissance aircraft observations from the evening forecast showed that the center of the storm has re-formed further northeast closer to the deepest convection, as Michael finishes ingesting a disturbance from the Eastern Pacific, noted WeatherTiger forecaster Ryan Truchelut, who partners with the USA TODAY Florida network to provide hurricane forecasts.

With Hurricane Michael rapidly intensifying and threatening to smash Florida's Panhandle with unsafe storm surge, flooding and winds, Gov. Rick Scott didn't mince words on Monday night: "Making decisions tomorrow might be too late". Rain chances in both counties are 70 percent on Tuesday.

The highest tide of the year, King Tide is expected to peak Tuesday and can cause some flooding in low-lying areas and at the beaches.

A hurricane warning has been issued for the Cuban province of Pinar del Rio and tropical storm warnings are in effect for the Cuban province of Isle of Youth and the Mexican coast from Tulum to Cabo Catoche.

"If this storm hit Panama City, Tampa could still have storm surge", said Scott, referring to two Florida cities about 375 miles (600 kilometers) apart by highway. Suwanee River to Anna Maria Island Florida, including Tampa Bay

Michael, now a Category 1 hurricane slashing Cuba, is forecast to be a "dangerous major hurricane" when it smacks the US Gulf Coast on Wednesday, the National Hurricane Center said.

Graphic: Projected Storm Surge near landfall.

The National Hurricane Center in Miami says Michael is packing top sustained winds of 60 mph (95 kph) and is about 105 miles (170 kilometers) east-southeast of Cozumel, Mexico.

Governor Rick Scott ordered a state of emergency Sunday for 26 counties in the Panhandle and Big Bend area, which will free up resources for storm preparation and recovery efforts.

With the high wind shear that had been making it hard for the storm to organize retreating from the Gulf of Mexico it is likely the system will become Michael as it makes its way north. It was moving north around 7 miles per hour. Tuesday and Wednesday's forecasts will be highly dependent on the track. Leslie continues as a tropical storm over the Central Atlantic, but is forecast to briefly become a hurricane again.

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