Florida Declares State of Emergency in 26 Counties Ahead of Tropical Storm Michael

Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency for 26 counties ahead of the arrival of Tropical Storm Michael, which is forecast to strengthen into a Category 2 hurricane by the time it makes landfall.

“This storm will be life-threatening and extremely dangerous," Scott warned at a press briefing, according to local station News Channel 5. “This storm has the potential to bring devastating impacts to communities across the Panhandle and Big Bend and every family must be prepared."

“Everybody's got to get ready. Don't take a chance," continued Scott, who activated 500 National Guard Troops in advance of the storm. “We're going to get storm surge, we have wind, we have a chance of flooding, we have a significant chance of tornadoes."

Michael, which formed near the Yucatan Peninsula on Sunday, is expected to bring heavy rains, high storm surges, and hurricane force winds when it makes landfall on the northeastern US Gulf Coast later this week, affecting a region stretching from Mobile, Alabama, through the Florida Panhandle and into the Big Bend area.

“Michael expected to become a hurricane very soon," the National Hurricane Center announced in its 8 a.m. bulletin in Monday. “Michael is forecast to be near or at major hurricane strength when it reaches the northeastern Gulf of Mexico Tuesday night and Wednesday."

The center also stated that there is a possibility that the storm will manage to strengthen to a Category 3 hurricane by the time it makes landfall.

It is expected that Michael, currently centered about 90 miles east of Cozumel, Mexico, will dump four to eight inches of rain, with totals reaching more than 12 inches in isolated areas, potentially causing "life-threatening" flash floods and mudslides, according to the National Hurricane Center. It has also been warned that isolated tornadoes could develop in the Florida Panhandle and southern Georgia.

Storm surges are forecast to reach as much as 11 feet in some areas, with Indian Pass to Crystal River expected to see seven to 11 feet storm surges, while areas around Tampa Bay could see a storm surge reaching two to four feet.

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Along with a state of emergency, parts of the northeast Gulf Coast, including Pensacola, Panama City and Tallahassee, are under hurricane watches. Tropical storm watches are in effect from Suwanee River, Florida, to Anna Maria Island, Florida, according to the Weather Channel.

It is also possible that parts of the Carolinas, which were just battered by Hurricane Florence, will be affected by Michael’s heavy rains.