Tropical Storm Michael could hit Florida Gulf Coast as a Category 2 hurricane
An intensifying storm system that became Tropical Storm Michael Sunday afternoon is setting its sights on the northern Gulf Coast, and forecasters say it could be a Category 2 hurricane when it makes landfall.
“In fact, nearly every piece of intensity guidance brings the cyclone to hurricane strength before it reaches land, including the GFS, ECMWF, and UKMET global models, which all show significant deepening of the central pressure,” National Hurricance Center forecaster Robbie Berg wrote in a morning discussion of the storm.
Air Force Reserve reconnaissance aircraft observations from the evening forecast showed that the center of the storm has re-formed further northeast closer to the deepest convection, as Michael finishes ingesting a disturbance from the Eastern Pacific, noted WeatherTiger forecaster Ryan Truchelut, who partners with the USA TODAY Florida network to provide hurricane forecasts. This is a shift away from Pensacola, which remains on the edge of the cone.
With Tropical Storm Michael gaining strength in the Gulf of Mexico, Gov. Rick Scott declared an emergency in 26 counties Sunday night including Escambia and Santa Rosa counties.
At sundown, Scott said Michael’s winds were 50 miles an hour, with a high risk of tornadoes spinning off from the storm, particularly on its eastern side. By the 7 p.m. update, wind speed had increased to 60 miles an hour. Scott said that as the storm hits the Panhandle, probably at mid-week, it’s likely to be a Category 2 hurricane — possibly a 3 — with winds exceeding 100 mph.