Michael officially a hurricane, tropical storm effects expected in Chatham County

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Residents of Florida's Panhandle frantically filled sandbags, boarded up homes and secured boats Monday as they anxiously awaited Hurricane Michael, which forecasters warned could smash into the state's Gulf Coast as a risky major hurricane within days.

By late Monday afternoon, Close said folks across Tampa Bay will see quick-moving storms pass through the area as the hurricane's outer bands begin to reach Florida.

Tropical Storm Michael was upgraded to a hurricane on Monday as it proceeded toward the Gulf of Mexico and Florida Panhandle, the National Hurricane Center said.

Hurricane Michael may not directly target Tampa Bay when it makes landfall Wednesday as a potentially catastrophic Category 2 hurricane in the Florida Panhandle, but that doesn't mean the region will be spared from the storm's devastating effects.

Michael is forecasted to become a major hurricane by Tuesday or Tuesday night. "As we continue to monitor this storm's path toward Florida, it is critically important that our communities have every available resource to keep everyone safe". It is becoming more likely, but still not certain, at this point that some of our southern counties could see hurricane force wind gusts (74mph+) In addition to the wind, Michael could be a decent rain maker, with several inches of rain possible. The center of the storm is then expected to move across Georgia as a tropical storm, before moving across the Carolinas and southeast Virginia before going back out to sea by next weekend.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott has declared a state of emergency for 26 counties in Florida's Panhandle and Big Bend areas. It's forecast to move toward the Baja this week and eventually make landfall as a tropical storm by week's end. He also waived tolls in a move to help coastal dwellers leave.

Scott has also extended his state of emergency order to include Bradford, Pasco, Hernando, Pinellas, Hillsborough, Manatee, Alachua, Union, and Baker Counties. This rainfall may lead to life-threatening flash floods. Over very warm waters and light upper level winds, the Hurricane Center said the storm could rapidly intensify over the next 24 to 36 hours.

Tropical storm force winds are possible as early as Wednesday.

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Hess Corp, Royal Dutch Shell and Anadarko Petroleum Corp said they were monitoring the storm and would take actions as needed.

Almost a month after Hurricane Florence created unprecedented flooding, the Grand Strand is in another storm's path.

As many as 7 inches of rain are expected over western Cuba and 4 inches over the Yucatan Peninsula, Belize and northern Honduras through Tuesday.

"Remember, this storm could grow stronger and be a Category 3 hitting our state", Scott said.

The storm was centered about 20 miles (30 kilometers) off the western tip of Cuba, and about 145 miles (230 kilometers) east-northeast of Cozumel, Mexico. Heavy rain is not expected on Monday.

Water levels along the west coast of the Bay Area could rise.

With the ground saturated from Hurricane Florence, inland flooding is also predicted.

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