Tropical storm Michael: Florida declares STATE of EMERGENCY ahead of risky hurricane

"Our state understands how serious tropical weather is and how devastating any hurricane of tropical storm can be", Scott said in a statement.

Tropical Storm Michael battered parts of Mexico and Cuba with powerful winds and drenching rains on Sunday as it strengthened in the Caribbean on a path that could see it slam into the U.S. Gulf Coast later this week with hurricane force, officials said. The strengthening tropical storm is predicted to become a hurricane - and even an intense one.

UPDATE (2:45 p.m.) - Hurricane Michael's form is still healthy, as deep moisture is wrapping around its center and an "eye" is starting to appear on satellite imagery.

"Michael is expected to affect portions of the Florida Gulf Coast that are especially vulnerable to storm surge, regardless of the storm's exact track or intensity", the Hurricane Center warned.

The depression was moving north at 3 miles per hour.

North Carolina and the Triangle could see up to 3 inches of rain, starting Wednesday into Thursday. Storm surge projections are in excess of 8 to 12 feet.

The NHC says that Michael is expected to cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded by rising waters moving inland from the shoreline because of a unsafe storm surge and tide.

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Chatham Emergency Management Agency has entered OPCON 4 and is monitoring Tropical Storm Michael.

The threat for tornadoes will increase late Tuesday into Wednesday over parts of the Florida panhandle, the northern Florida Peninsula, and southern Georgia.

Satellite wind data indicated the depression had strengthened Sunday morning with maximum winds of 40 miles per hour.

Scott warned that Michael could reach land as a Category 2 hurricane with winds in excess of 100 miles per hour. The storm continues to gain organization and Michael will likely become a hurricane later today. "The uncertainties we have at this time has to do with the storm being newly developed overnight", Barry said. Michael was expected to become a hurricane later in the day. And an area of disturbed weather south of the Cabo Verde Islands has a 20-30 percent chance of becoming a storm over the next five days.

Gulf Coast of Florida from the Okaloosa/Walton County Line to Anclote River.

A hurricane watch is in effect along the Alabama-Florida border down to the Suwanee River.

Depending on the track, it's possible that the storm's remnants also could bring heavy rainfall to Virginia, Maryland and Washington - another region vulnerable to flooding because of unusually wet conditions in September - by Thursday and Friday. The declaration would free up resources for storm preparation.

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