EYE ON THE TROPICS: Hurricane Michael intensifies further; life-threatening impacts to north florida

11 p.m. update
Hurricane Michael intensifies a bit more. At 11 p.m., the system holds 90 mph sustained winds and it continues to travel north at 12 mph. 

The system just missed making landfall in the extreme western tip of Cuba and it it fully emerged in the very warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. 
Michael is expected to continue intensifying further overnight and it will likely reach Category 2 by sunrise Tuesday.

The wind shear will continue to relax Tuesday allowing Michael to reach major category 3 status.

8 p.m. update

Michael intensifies a bit more at the 8 p.m. advisory, maximum sustained winds at 85 mph, and it moves to the north at 12 mph. The next complete advisory by the National Hurricane Center will be release at 11 p.m. Please check back for updates.

5 p.m. update
Hurricane Michael continues to intensify as it enters the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Holding maximum sustained winds at 80 mph, Category 1 Hurricane Michael is forecast to reach Major Category 3 within the next 24 hours, as it travels toward the Florida Panhandle. The storm is becoming much better organized as the wind shear starts to relax. Tropical storm force-winds extend outward 175 miles from its center and hurricane force-winds out to 35 miles. A shift to the north-northeast is expected as well a slight increase in speed Tuesday evening. 
Cedar Key to India Pass in Florida could expect 8 to 12 feet storm surge. A storm surge watch has been issued from the Tampa Bay region northward over the Nature Coast, Big Bend and the Panhandle. 
The track continues to point at a Panama City landfall Wednesday afternoon with maximum sustained winds of 115 mph. Time and exact location could still vary. 

Stay a step ahead of the storm with updates, live radar and the latest forecasts: Download the free WFTV Weather app.

Scroll down for Florida impacts and in-depth forecast. 
We will continue to monitor the tropics closely and bring you updates promptly on Channel 9, WFTV.com and on our WFTV apps.

11 a.m. Update

Michael is officially a hurricane, strengthening as it makes its way toward the Florida panhandle.

The Category 1 storm is currently producing winds of 75 miles per hour.

The track of the storm has not changed: Michael is expected to make landfall on the panhandle on Wednesday. Central Florida could see some impacts, but the worst of the storm will stay west, said Channel 9 meteorologist Brian Shields.

Stay a step ahead of the storm with updates, live radar and the latest forecasts: Download the free WFTV Weather app.

Florida State University announced Monday morning that its Tallahassee and Panama City campuses will be closed Tuesday and stay closed for the rest of the week.


8 a.m. update

Michael remains a tropical storm, but is forecast to become hurricane later Monday.

It's expected to shift slightly west and make landfall Wednesday in the western portion of the Florida Panhandle.

The storm has maximum sustained winds of 70 mph and is about 120 miles east-northeast of Cozumel, Mexico, and 70 miles south of Cuba’s western tip. It is moving north at 7 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center.

5 a.m. update
Tropical Storm Michael remains on track to head to the Florida Panhandle early Wednesday.
Michael has been fighting some strong wind shear during the last couple of days, but once over the Gulf of Mexico the wind shear will relax a bit, allowing the storm to intensify to a hurricane. 
There is a low pressure system in the upper level of the atmosphere that will pull Michael to the north, allowing it to travel over the very warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Michael's eye is expected to stay about 200 miles west of Florida, but its rain bands will be sweeping over the Peninsula starting Tuesday. 
It is possible for Michael to intensify to a Category 2 hurricane before it makes landfall Wednesday afternoon. Although the cone has shifted, covering a possible landfall anywhere between the Nature Coast to the Emerald Coast, it still possible to have more shifts in the coming days. Any slight deviation could bring more, or less, impacts to Central Florida.
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The landfall timing could vary, the trough (a dip in the jet stream) will be taking Michael toward the northeast. This trough is currently building over the West Coast of the U.S. and it will all depend how long it will take for it to bend enough toward the southeast to shift and pull Michael northward, then to the northeast. Once the trough gets a good grasp on Michael, the system will quickly pick up speed to the north. Models vary on the intensity and timing of this trough. We will continue to monitor the evolution of this key driver.
Under the current trajectory, Michael is forecast to make landfall during the early evening Wednesday somewhere between Apalachicola and East Point Florida, in the Florida's Panhandle. 
Tropical storm force winds will be affecting western Cuba through Tuesday morning.
Torrential rains to the western tip of Cuba will bring life-threatening flash floods and mudslides. Up to 12 inches of rain are forecast for this region of the Island. Rough seas will also affect the Western Caribbean during the start of the work week. 
Across the Florida Keys, 2 to 4 inches of rain are possible through Tuesday. 

Under the current track, Central Florida can expect breezy conditions starting Tuesday evening through Thursday. Rain bands will sweep over Florida's Peninsula, mainly from south to north, some could be heavy at times. 
Storm surge is a big concern for the western Florida coast and especially over the Panhandle, even if Michael stays as a Category 1 hurricane at landfall, there could be deadly storm surge affecting Florida's Panhandle coastline. Residents near the coast should monitor the evolution of this sytem closely, and follow advice of local officials.
East Coast beach conditions: Wave heights & winds
Florida Gov. Rick Scott on Sunday warned that a tropical storm headed for the Florida Panhandle could become a Category 2 hurricane with winds up to 100 miles per hour by the time it makes landfall in the middle of the week.
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.
"This storm will be life-threatening and extremely dangerous," Scott said after receiving a briefing at the State Emergency Operations Center.
The governor warned that storm surge could affect areas of Florida not in the storm's direct path.
"If this storm hits Panama City, Tampa could still have storm surge," said Scott, referring to two Florida cities about 375 miles apart by highway. "Every family must be prepared."
Scott also activated 500 members of the Florida National Guard ahead of the storm.

See the 2018 Atlantic Season Names

We will continue to monitor the tropics closely and bring you updates promptly on Channel 9, WFTV.com and on our WFTV apps.