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Tropical Storm Michael nears hurricane strength, state of emergency declared in Florida

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Tropical Storm Michael has strengthened overnight and is nearing hurricane-force winds on Monday morning as it sets its sights on the Florida Panhandle.

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Florida Gov. Rick Scott already declared a state of emergency in 26 counties in the northern part of the state on Sunday. The Federal Emergency Management Agency mobilized resources from the federal government to assist in preparation early Monday.

Officials believe the storm could strengthen into a Category 2 hurricane by the time it makes landfall midweek.

PHOTO: Tropical Storm Michael is moving north on Monday as it targets Florida later this week.ABC News
Tropical Storm Michael is moving north on Monday as it targets Florida later this week.

“The Panhandle and Big Bend could see winds in excess of 100 mph,” Scott said at a briefing Sunday evening. “Remember, this storm could grow stronger and be a Category 3 hitting our state. This storm will be life-threatening and extremely dangerous.”

The tropical storm has maximum sustained winds of 70 mph as of 7 a.m. on Monday. It is located 120 miles east of Cozumel, Mexico, and 70 miles west of Cuba.

PHOTO: A hurricane warning and tropical storm watch are in place ahead of Michaels arrival.ABC News
A hurricane warning and tropical storm watch are in place ahead of Michael’s arrival.

A hurricane watch has been issued for north Florida and a tropical storm watch has been issued for parts of the western coast of Florida, including Tampa.

A tropical storm watch has also been issued for the Alabama coast, including Mobile.

Landfall will come sometime Wednesday afternoon as a possible strong Category 2, bordering Category 3, hurricane somewhere near Panama City.

PHOTO: Michael is expected to make landfall on Wednesday and move through the Southeast at the end of the week.ABC News
Michael is expected to make landfall on Wednesday and move through the Southeast at the end of the week.

The storm will move further inland later in the week and bring its effects to Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia. The Carolinas and Virginia were blasted by Hurricane Florence last month, which dumped more than 2 feet of rain in some locations and caused record flooding.

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