Hurricane Michael's path: Track the storm here

U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds at the Baltimore Fleet Week and Air Show Oct. 7

- Tropical Storm Michael has reached hurricane strength as it moves north into the Gulf of Mexico, and forecasters expect to to get even stronger before landfall on the Florida Panhandle.

Michael battered parts of Mexico and Cuba with powerful winds and drenching rains on Sunday and into early Monday as it churned in the Caribbean.

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. Tropical storm winds extended out 170 miles (275 kilometers), primarily to the northeast and southeast of the storm's center. Michael will move across the eastern Gulf of Mexico Tuesday, and is expected to approach the United States northeastern Gulf Coast on Wednesday.

The track takes the developing storm as a hurricane toward a landfall near the Florida Panhandle Wednesday. It is expected to become a hurricane by Tuesday.

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Michael is forecast to become a hurricane later Monday and a major hurricane Tuesday night or Wednesday.

Rick Scott issued an order for a state of emergency for 26 counties to rush preparations in the Florida Panhandle and the Big Bend area, freeing up resources and activating 500 members of the Florida National Guard. Tropical storm watches extend farther south through the Tampa Bay area to Anna Maria Island and, to the west, along the Alabama coast. That's the region that stretches from Mobile, Alabama, through the Florida Panhandle and into the Big Bend area of northern Florida.

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

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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If Michael reaches major hurricane status, winds would be at least 111 miles-per-hour.

"This storm will be life-threatening and extremely risky", Scott said at a press briefing.

An Air Force hurricane hunter airplane was sent into the storm to investigate, the hurricane center said. This rainfall could lead to life threatening flash floods.Florida Peninsula, Florida Keys, portions of the Mid-Atlantic States, and the southern New England coast.2 to 4 inches with local amounts of 6 inches.

In light of the storm, Florida Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum suspended his campaign activity to address preparations for the storm, according to CNN.

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