Tuesday, November 20, 2018
Tampa Bay Weather

Tampa Bay under Tropical Storm Watch; Michael forecast to strike Panhandle as a midweek hurricane

UPDATE: As of Monday at 11 a.m., Hurricane Michael formed near Cuba as a Category storm with maximum sustained winds of 75 mph.  Full story

The Tampa Bay area is under a Tropical Storm Watch as Michael appears poised to strengthen into a Category 2 hurricane before making landfall on the Florida Panhandle by midweek.

The storm could become a hurricane by Monday, according to the National Hurricane Center. A Tropical Storm Watch was issued from the Suwannee River to Anna Maria Island, including Tampa Bay. The Hurricane Center also issued a Storm Surge Watch from Navarre, in the Florida Panhandle, to Anna Maria Island.

The Storm Surge Watch means the Tampa Bay area experience "life-threatening" flooding from rising water moving inland from the coastline during the next 48 hours, according to the Hurricane Center.

EXTENDED FORECAST: The 10-day outlook for the Tampa Bay area

As of 8 a.m., the storm had maximum sustained speeds just shy of hurricane strength, at 70 mph. It was located about 70 miles south of the western tip of Cuba and moving north at 7 mph, toward the Gulf Coast, according to the Hurricane Center.

 

In a news conference Sunday evening in Tallahassee, Florida Gov. Rick Scott warned that the storm could have far-reaching effects, regardless of where it lands.

"If this storm hits Panama City, Tampa could still have storm surge," Scott said.

The governor warned that there is potential for "devastating impact to communities across the Panhandle and Big Bend."

Scott issued an order for a state of emergency for 26 counties in the Florida Panhandle and the Big Bend area. The declaration will free up resources for storm preparation.

"With the National Hurricane Center forecasting Tropical Depression 14 to strengthen and impact Florida’s Panhandle as a hurricane, families need to get prepared," the governor said in a release. The governor was set to meet with emergency officials Sunday evening in Tallahassee.

HURRICANE GUIDE: Emergency information, tracking map and storm resources

Parts of the Yucatan Peninsula and Cuba will undergo heavy rainfall and flash flooding Monday and Tuesday, forecasters predict.

Then, wind shear will become weaker and Michael will become stronger. It is forecast to strengthen into a hurricane by Monday night or Tuesday as its center moves over the Yucatan Channel, crosses the Gulf of Mexico and nears the Florida Panhandle coast sometime Wednesday.

Though forecasters expect the hurricane to hit the Panhandle, the storm may "affect portions of the Florida Gulf Coast that are especially vulnerable to storm surge, regardless of the storm’s exact track or intensity." Tampa Bay has about a 40 percent chance of tropical storm-force winds within the next five days.

A Hurricane Watch has been issued from the Alabama-Florida border eastward to the Suwannee River.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

This is a developing story. Stay with tampabay.com for updates.

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