Cuba and Mexico issue alerts as tropical storm inches closer

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Hurricane conditions are expected within the next 12 hours, according to the NHC.

As of 11 p.m. Sunday, Tropical Storm Michael was centered about 105 miles east-southeast of Cozumel, Mexico, the National Hurricane Center said.

"Strengthening is forecast during the next several days", the hurricane center said.

While the storm will pass well west of Tampa Bay, the area will see gusty south and southeast winds with showers Monday through Wednesday. The hurricane center's current forecast track shows the storm is expected to strengthen further and could hit the Florida Panhandle as a Category I hurricane on Wednesday.

Elsewhere, outer rain bands from the depression are expected to produce total rain accumulations of 2 to 4 inches across the Florida Keys through Monday. "In addition, Michael is expected to affect portions of the Florida Gulf Coast that are especially vulnerable to storm surge, regardless of the storm's exact track or intensity".

The NWS release said there is considerable uncertainty regarding the track, intensity, and timing of Michael, but confidence is increasing that it will directly impact the southeast Georgia and southeast SC area. Hurricane force winds extend 45 miles outside the center, and tropical storm force winds extend outwards 175 miles.

Gov. Rick Scott warned Floridians and local governments to take serious precautions ahead of Tropical Storm Michael, that strengthened in the Caribbean early Sunday afternoon.

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The winds have increased to 35 miles per hour.

Tropical storm warnings were posted for western Cuba and Mexico's northeast Yucatan Peninsula, including Cancun, weather.com reported.

When the storm moves ashore, it will probably be a Category 1 storm, with winds between 74-95 miles per hour, said Frank Strait, senior meteorologist for the private forecasting firm AccuWeather.

"If any Florida family doesn't have an emergency preparedness plan, now is the time to act", Scott said in a release on Sunday.

Scott encouraged residents in the path of the storm to prepare now, and directed everyone to visit FloridaDisaster.org to find information on emergency preparedness, shelters, road closures, and evacuation routes. The storm will move quickly, exiting the Piedmont by Friday morning as it turns east and heads offshore.

"While the impacts are still uncertain, our area could experience increased wind activity and heavy rainfall, which could cause localized flooding and downed trees", Tallahassee officials said in a statement.

A coastal flood advisory was issued for Monday and Tuesday in South Mississippi and Louisiana as the storm enters the Gulf of Mexico. "Higher amounts of 2" to locally 3" will be possible across southern Maryland, closer to the center of Michael's path.

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