Tropical Storm Michael approaching hurricane strength

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Tropical Storm Michael is expected to become a hurricane later today. The National Hurricane Center said the storm should be near or at major hurricane strength when it reaches the northeastern Gulf of Mexico Tuesday night and Wednesday.

Tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 175 miles from the center.

Earlier this morning, Michael was about 100 miles south-southwest of the western tip of Cuba and moving north at 7 mph, with maximum sustained winds of 70 mph.

The government of Cuba issued a hurricane warning for the province of Pinar del Rio. A storm surge watch was issued from Navarra to Anna Maria Island in Florida, including Tampa Bay. A hurricane watch is in effect from the Alabama-Florida border east to the Suwanee River.

Tropical storm watches were issued from the Suwanee River to Anna Maria Island, including Tampa Bay, and from the Alabama-Florida border to the Mississippi-Alabama border.

The National Hurricane Center expects an increase in forward speed through Tuesday night, followed by a northeast motion on Wednesday and Thursday. The center of the storm is forecast to move across the Yucatan Channel later today, then across the eastern Gulf of Mexico this evening through Wednesday.

Michael is expected to move inland over the Florida Panhandle on Wednesday, then track northeast across the Southeast Wednesday night and Thursday.

Rainfall in the Florida Panhandle and into southern Georgia is forecast to be 4 to 8 inches, with isolated areas expected to get a foot.

Tropical Storm Leslie is lingering in the central Atlantic and is expected strengthen during the next few days.