CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Heavy rains are spreading across western Cuba and the Florida Keys as Tropical Storm Michael heads for an expected landfall in the Florida panhandle later this week.
Current forecast tracks have it reaching the Florida panhandle by Wednesday and then moving across land toward the Carolinas between Thursday and Friday dumping up to four inches of rain over the Lowcountry.
The Live 5 First Alert Weather team declared Wednesday and Thursday as First Alert Weather Daysbecause of the possible impact of Michael on the Lowcountry.
“It will push into the gulf making landfall and then come up this way into the southeast as a big rain maker and possibly have some gusty winds and isolated tornadoes in particular if we are north and east of the decaying center of circulation,” Live 5 Chief Meteorologist Bill Walsh said.
Rainfall of two to four inches is possible.
On the forecast track, the center of Michael will move over the Yucatan Channel or extreme western Cuba Monday, cross the eastern Gulf of Mexico later Monday through Tuesday night, and approach the United States northeastern Gulf coast on Wednesday.
At 2 a.m. Monday, the center of Tropical Storm Michael was located by an Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter aircraft near latitude 20.1 North, longitude 85.5 West. That's about 95 miles east-southeast of Cozumel, Mexico and 130 miles south-southwest of the western tip of Cuba.
Michael is moving toward the north near 5 mph.
A general northward motion with some increase in forward speed is expected over the next few days.
Maximum sustained winds are near 60 mph with higher gusts. Gradual strengthening is expected during the next few days, and Michael is forecast to become a hurricane either Monday night or on Tuesday.
Michael will be upgraded to a Category 1 hurricane when its maximum sustained winds reach a speed of 74 mph.
Tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 175 miles from the center.
The estimated minimum central pressure based on aircraft data is 994 mb (29.35 inches).
First Alert Weather Days are designed to help us alert our community to potential weather dangers quickly and provide more information about impacts and other important information like business and school closings and event cancellations when they happen.
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