Hurricane Michael is gaining intensity in the Gulf of Mexico. The storm will make landfall in Florida’s panhandle as a Category 3 or a Category 4 hurricane on Wednesday.
Florida Governor Rick Scott has declared a State of Emergency in 35 counties.
“This storm has the potential to bring devastating impacts to communities across the Panhandle and Big Bend and every family must be prepared. We all saw the damage Hermine did to the neighborhoods in its path just two years ago and Tropical Storm Michael is forecast to have similar impacts,” Governor Scott said on Sunday.
The Tampa, Florida, area isn’t expecting a direct hit from Michael, but the city and surrounding areas, especially along the coast, will be seeing some higher-than-normal winds and a fair amount of rain from the outer bands of the storm. There is also some concern about storm surge.
According to Tampa meteorologist Denis Phillips, the city “[isn’t] completely out of the woods,” despite the latest track update showing a shift to the west.
“I don’t expect a dramatic change to this track. Anything is possible, but landfall in the panhandle has pretty much been on the table since the beginning. The ‘wild card,’ as it often is, is intensity. All that warm Gulf water can fuel a storm quickly. It’s why we always talk about Gulf storms in October,” Phillips wrote on Facebook earlier this morning.
Tropical Storm Watches Are Already in Effect
A Storm Surge Watch and Tropical Storm Watch have both been issued for coastal areas including Citrus, Hernando, Hillsborough, Levy, Manatee, Pasco, and Pinellas counties. Additionally, a Tropical Storm Watch has been issued for inland Citrus, Hernando, Hillsborough, Levy, and Pasco counties.
As you can see on the map above, many counties in Tampa will experience higher-than-normal winds. Tampa is comfortably sitting in the yellow band, meaning that there could be sustained winds of 30 to 40 miles per hour in the area.
The winds will start picking up in intensity on Tuesday morning.
Tampa’s Weather Will Worsen on Wednesday
Conditions in the Tampa Bay area will decrease over the next 24 to 48 hours. Michael will be directly to the west of Tampa in the overnight hours of Tuesday into Wednesday.
“As this system moves north into the Gulf, it is going to drag a lot of moisture up over Cuba and into South Florida. The storm is expected to increase rain chances across the Tampa Bay area this week,” ABC Action News reports.