WASHINGTON (FOX News) – Tropical storm Michael churning off Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula has been upgraded to a Category 1 hurricane, according to the National Hurricane Center. Forecasters say the powerful storm could bring heavy rainfall, storm surge and “dangerous” winds increasing for the northeastern Gulf Coast.
The storm is expected to dump 4 to 8 inches of rain on Cuba, with some areas of the island nation seeing up to a foot of water. The heavy rainfall could lead to “life-threatening flash floods and mudslides,” the National Hurricane Center warned.
“Michael is forecast to be a hurricane, and possibly a major hurricane when it reaches the northeastern Gulf Coast by mid-week, and storm surge and hurricane watches are now in effect for portions of the area,” the Center added.
Michael is now the 13th named storm of the 2018 hurricane season. Here’s what you need to know as the storm continues to strengthen over the next few days.
The storm is 145 miles east-northeast of Cozumel, Mexico — 20 miles south of the western tip of Cuba, according to a 2 p.m. ET advisory.
The storm is moving north at 7 mph and has maximum sustained winds of 75 mph.
“A northward motion at a slightly faster forward speed is expected through Tuesday night, followed by a northeastward motion on Wednesday and Thursday,” the NHC said in its Monday morning advisory.
The center of Michael is expected to move across the Yucatán Channel — a strait between Mexico and Cuba — Monday, slowly making its way across the eastern Gulf of Mexico through Wednesday. The Gulf’s warmer temperatures and favorable atmospheric conditions may fuel the storm’s strength.
#Michael could produce three life-threatening hazards along portions of the northeastern Gulf Coast: storm surge, heavy rainfall, and hurricane-force winds, with storm surge and hurricane watches in effect. Residents in these areas should follow advice given by local officials. pic.twitter.com/JZENNHSQTK— National Hurricane Center (@NHC_Atlantic) October 8, 2018
By Wednesday, Michael will likely move inland over the Florida Panhandle and Big Bend, making its way across the southeastern U.S. that night and Thursday morning.
“Hurricane conditions are possible within the hurricane watch area along the U.S. Gulf coast by Wednesday, with tropical storm conditions possible by Tuesday night or early Wednesday. Tropical storm conditions are possible within the tropical storm watch area by Tuesday night or early Wednesday,” the NHC added.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott issued an order for a state of emergency for 26 counties to rush preparations in the Panhandle and the Big Bend area, freeing up resources and activating 500 members of the Florida National Guard ahead of Tropical Storm Michael.
Locally-ordered evacuations have started ahead of Hurricane Michael in some FL counties. Visit https://t.co/OnxOrhg593 to find your evacuation zone, & follow alerts from your local emergency management center. If you are directed to evacuate, leave, DO NOT WAIT.— Rick Scott (@FLGovScott) October 8, 2018
“This storm will be life-threatening and extremely dangerous,” Scott said Sunday after receiving a briefing at the State Emergency Operations Center. He warned that storm surge could affect areas of Florida not in the storm’s direct path.
The Florida Panhandle and Big Bend into southern Georgia are planning on seeing at least 4 to 8 inches of rain, with up to a foot of in some parts.
“Let’s all stay safe and watch this storm closely. 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. We can rebuild your home, but we cannot rebuild your life.”
Michael is expected to bring a life-threatening storm surge along the Florida coast. Check out this interactive map from the NHC to see flooding potential in your area due to the storm.