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The storm brewing in the Caribbean strengthened to become Tropical Storm Michael about noon on Sunday, and experts now expect it to develop into a hurricane that could impact the Carolinas.
“Nearly all of the intensity models bring the cyclone to hurricane strength over the Gulf of Mexico in 2 to 3 days,” the 10 a.m. Sunday forecast discussion by the National Hurricane Center said.
The big picture on where the storm is expected to go has also shifted some since Saturday afternoon, when tracking showed Michael crossing the Florida Panhandle and southern Alabama as a tropical storm.
The track as of 2 p.m. Sunday reflected more of an eastward turn, to include areas still recovering from devastating flooding from Hurricane Florence. It shows Michael as a hurricane off the northern Gulf Coast Wednesday morning and as a tropical storm moving square across Georgia and the Carolinas through Friday morning.
Under the Sunday morning forecast, tropical storm force winds could arrive at the earliest in South Carolina by Wednesday morning and in most of North Carolina by Wednesday night.
Michael barely qualified as a tropical storm as it stalled south of the Yucatan Peninsula with 40 mph winds Sunday afternoon. It triggered flash-flooding warnings for that area and western Cuba.
“There is an increasing risk of dangerous storm surge, rainfall, and wind impacts over portions of the northern Gulf Coast by mid-week, although it is too soon to specify the exact location and magnitude of these impacts,” the forecast discussion said. “Residents in these areas should monitor the progress of this system.”