Tropical disturbance is now Tropical Storm Michael — and a Florida hurricane may be next

The tropical disturbance in the Caribbean that became Tropical Depression No. 14 in Sunday’s wee hours strengthened into Tropical Storm Michael early Sunday with 60 mph winds.

And the National Hurricane Center thinks the storm has a more muscular future.

Gradual strengthening is expected during the next few days, and Michael is forecast to become a hurricane Monday night or Tuesday,” according to an advisory at 11 p.m.

As for where the storm will be by that point, the forecast track takes it through the eastern Gulf of Mexico, meaning there might be some Category 1 preparation for residents of Florida’s Panhandle and southern Alabama this week.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency late Sunday afternoon.

Tropical storm warnings are already in effect for Pinar Del Rio and the Isle of Youth in Cuba, as well as the Mexican coast from Tulum to Cabo Catoche for what would be named Michael.

Michael’s 60 mph sustained winds at 11 p.m. put it at the minimum for tropical storm strength. Tropical storm winds can be felt 170 miles from the center, mainly northeast and southeast. Michael’s moving at north at 5 mph and is 135 miles south southwest of Cuba’s western edge and 105 miles east southeast of Cozumel, Mexico.

The National Weather Service forecasts 2 to 4 inches of rain in the Florida Keys Sunday and Monday from the outer bands. Heavier showers are forecast for western Cuba (3 to 7 inches), as well as the Yucatan Peninsula, Belize and Northern Honduras (2 to 4 inches). Some parts of western Cuba might get up to 12 inches of rain.

The National Weather Service warned of possibly lethal flash floods hitting western Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala, Chiapas, Mexico and other parts of the Mexican and Central American Pacific coasts.

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