According to the US-based National Hurricane Center, Tropical Storm Michael was located approximately 145 km (90 mi) east of the Mexican city of Cozumel (Quintana Roo state) and 155 km (100 mi) south-southwest of the western tip of Cuba as of 04:00 (Central Daylight Time) on Monday, October 8. Michael is currently moving north and is expected to strengthen into a hurricane before passing just west of Cuba early Monday and moving into the Gulf of Mexico. Michael is then expected to make landfall in the Florida Panhandle late on Wednesday or early Thursday.
Hurricane warnings are currently in effect in Cuba’s Pinar del Rio province. Lower tropical storm warnings are also in effect for the Cuban island of Isla de la Juventud and the Mexican coastline between Tulum and Cabo Catoche. A hurricane watch has been issued for the US coastline from the Alabama-Florida border to the mouth of the Suwanee River in Florida, with tropical storm watches extending from this zone west to the Mississippi-Alabama border and east to Florida’s Anna Maria Island.
Maximum sustained winds of 110 km/h (70 mph) are currently being recorded and are expected to intensify in the coming hours and days. Heavy rain - up to 30 cm (12 in) in some areas - and storm surges with the potential to result in significant flooding are to be anticipated in affected areas. Associated air, maritime, and ground transportation disruptions are likely, along with power outages.
Tropical storms and hurricanes are common in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea during the Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to November 30 (with the largest concentration of storms typically occurring between August and October). Researchers have predicted a slightly below-average hurricane season for 2018.
Individuals in the affected areas are advised to monitor local weather reports, adhere to instructions issued by local authorities (e.g. evacuation notices), and confirm travel plans. Remember that walking or driving through running water can be dangerous - 15 cm (6 in) of running water is enough to knock over an adult - and floodwaters can contain wastewater and chemical products; all items having come into contact with floodwater should be disinfected and all foodstuffs discarded.