Tropical Storm Michael will likely slam the US as a hurricane this week

Storm could target Florida panhandle


(CNN) - Tropical Storm Michael formed near the Yucatan Peninsula on Sunday, and it's on track to wallop the United States.

"The current forecast indicates the storm entering the Gulf of Mexico by Monday morning, strengthening to a hurricane by early Wednesday and likely targeting the Florida panhandle by late Wednesday," CNN meteorologist Gene Norman said.

As of 11 p.m. Sunday, Tropical Storm Michael was centered about 105 miles east-southeast of Cozumel, Mexico, the National Hurricane Center said.

But it's so big, people about 175 miles away from the center are getting hit with tropical-storm-force winds (which have increased to at least 60 mph).

"Strengthening is forecast during the next several days," the hurricane center said.

Before Michael hits the United States, it's expected to dump 3 to 7 inches of rain on western Cuba.

"Isolated maximum amounts of 12 inches are possible in western Cuba," the hurricane center said. "This rainfall could lead to life-threatening flash floods and mudslides in areas of mountainous terrain."

Michael's path to the Gulf is also affecting politics in Florida.

Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum was scheduled to campaign in South Florida on Monday and Tuesday, but said he is suspending his campaign activity to address preparations for the storm, his campaign said. The storm is forecast to land a direct hit on Tallahassee, where Gillum is mayor.

Gov. Rick Scott, the Republican nominee for US Senate, at this point has yet to adjust his campaign schedule but his campaign says they are re-evaluating the situation. He returned to Tallahassee Sunday morning to oversee the state's response to the storm. He is working out of the State's Emergency Operations Center.

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