Still far off, Michael a growing menace to Florida Panhandle

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By 11 a.m. Monday, Michael's top sustained winds were around 75 miles per hour (120 kph).

Because of the storm surge threat, three Florida panhandle counties have issued mandatory evacuation orders ahead of the hurricane.

Tropical Storm Michael formed on Sunday in the Caribbean Sea and appears to have designs on the panhandle and big bend regions of Florida, according to early forecast tracks. A hurricane watch is in place from the Alabama-Florida border east to the Suwanee.

- Tropical Storm Michael has reached hurricane strength as it moves north into the Gulf of Mexico, and forecasters expect to to get even stronger before landfall on the Florida Panhandle.

He urged residents to quickly wrap up their final storm preparations Monday, calling Michael a "monstrous storm" with great destructive potential. The center warned heavy rain, risky winds and life-threatening storm surges were possible across Western Cuba on Monday as winds picked up speed on the Gulf Coast.

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Rick Scott on Sunday warned that the storm could become a Category 2 hurricane by the time it makes landfall at midweek. Tropical storm warnings are posted for the Isle of Youth in Cuba and the coast of Mexico from Tulum to Cabo Catoche, including Cozumel.

A Tropical Storm Watch is in effect for...

Also in that report, Dixon said Gillum's handling of the storm situation and his ensuing feud with Scott loomed over his political future.

Chatham, and the surrounding counties, are in the National Weather Service Charleston's 5-day error cone with southeast Georgia having a 40-50 percent of feeling topical storm force winds beginning around 9 a.m. Wednesday.

Enlarge / 12z European model forecast for Hurricane Michael's position at 2pm ET on Wednesday.

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"So dependent on where that eye is, is going to make a determination on what we're going to see in wind, rain and surge as it goes up", Litschauer said.

After hitting Florida, the storm is forecast to move northeast on Wednesday and Thursday along the Atlantic Coast and batter the Carolinas, which are still recovering from Hurricane Florence last month.

The hurricane center warned that the storm could produce a foot of rain in western Cuba, potentially triggering flash floods and mudslides in mountainous areas.

The storm now has maximum sustained winds of 75 miles per hour. On the forecast track, the center of Michael will pass near the western tip of Cuba within the next couple of hours and move into the southeastern Gulf of Mexico by tonight.

Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 30 miles from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 175 miles.

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"It's a storm to keep an eye on", said meteorologist Tony Saavedra with the National Weather Service in Newport.

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