Michael Strengthens Into a Hurricane, Watches Issued for Gulf Coast

Former Tropical Storm Michael strengthened into a hurricane on Monday morning and Watches were issued for portions of the Gulf Coast.  At 11:00 a.m. EDT on Monday the center of Hurricane Michael was located at latitude 21.2°N and longitude 84.9°W which put it about 50 miles (80 km) south of the western end of Cuba.  Michael was moving toward the north at 7 m.p.h. (11 km/h).  The maximum sustained wind speed was 75 m.p.h. (120 km/h) and there were wind gusts to 90 m.p.h. (145 km/h).  The minimum surface pressure was 982 mb.

A Hurricane Watch was in effect for the portion of the coast from the Alabama-Florida border to Suwanee River, Florida.  Tropical Storm Watches were in effect for the portions of the coast from the Alabama-Florida border to the Alabama-Mississippi border and from Suwanee River to Anna Maria Island, Florida.  A Hurricane Warning was in effect for the Cuban province of Pinar del Rio.  Tropical Storm Warnings were in effect for the Cuban province of Isle of Youth and for the portion of the coast from Tulum to Cabo Catoche, Mexico.

Hurricane Michael continued to organize quickly.  A circular eye with a diameter of about 30 miles (50 km) was forming at the center of Michael.  A ring of strong thunderstorms was wrapping around the eye and the strongest winds were occurring in the ring of storms.  Several bands of showers and thunderstorms were wrapping around the core of Hurricane Michael.  Storms near the core were generating upper level divergence which was pumping mass away from the hurricane.

Winds to hurricane force extended out about 30 miles (50 km) primarily to the northeast of the center of Hurricane Michael.  Winds to tropical storm force extended out about 175 miles (280 km) from the center of circulation.  The Hurricane Intensity Index (HII) for Hurricane Michael was 10.4.  The Hurricane Size Index (HSI) was 6.8 and the Hurricane Wind Intensity Size Index (HWISI) was 17.2.

Hurricane Michael will move into an environment that will become increasingly favorable for intensification.  Michael will move over water where the Sea Surface Temperature is near 30°C.  An upper level trough over the Gulf of Mexico was producing westerly winds which were blowing toward the top of the circulation.  Those winds were causing some vertical wind shear.  However, the upper level trough will move westward away from Hurricane Michael and the wind shear will decrease.  Hurricane Michael will continue to strengthen when it moves over the Gulf of Mexico and it could intensify rapidly once the eye and eyewall are fully formed.  Hurricane Michael is likely to strengthen into a major hurricane.

Hurricane Michael will move around the western end of a subtropical high pressure system centered over the western Atlantic Ocean.  The high will steer Michael in a northerly direction during the next several days.  It will get bigger and stronger during the next 48 hours.  On its anticipated track Hurricane Michael will approach the northeast coast of the Gulf of Mexico on Wednesday.  It is likely to be a major hurricane at that time.  Hurricane Michael has the potential to cause a storm surge of 10 to 15 feet (3 to 5 meters) at the coast.  It will bring strong winds which could cause regional major damage and result in significant power outages.  Locally heavy rain could cause flooding in some locations.

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