"Michael is expected to affect portions of the Florida Gulf Coast that are especially vulnerable to storm surge, regardless of the storm's exact track or intensity", the Hurricane Center warned.
Officials along the northeastern and central U.S. Gulf Coast are encouraged to keep an eye on the storm. Michael is now about 90 miles south of Cozumel, Mexico. It would be Tropical Storm Michael, the next name on the hurricane center's list.
The storm system is predicted to strengthen into Tropical Storm Michael Sunday night or Monday morning.
Michael is the 13th named storm of the 2018 hurricane season, according to hurricane center spokesman Dennis Feltgen. An Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter aircraft is now on the way to investigate the new tropical storm.
Another important factor is where and when the storm begins to turn from heading due north to northeast.
At 7 a.m. Sunday, the center of Tropical Depresson 14 was located near latitude 18.9N, longitude 86.8W. The declaration will free up resources for storm preparation. The depression is moving toward the north-northwest near 3 miles per hour (6 km/h).
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Every tropical system is different, and the time for the biggest changes will come in the early life of the storm, right now.
"Isolated maximum amounts of 12 inches are possible in western Cuba", the hurricane center said.
Total rain accumulations of 3 to 7 inches are expected over western Cuba and 2 to 4 inches over the Yucatan Peninsula, Belize and northern Honduras through Tuesday. This system could potentially become a hurricane in the Gulf.
Meteorologist Morgan Barry of the National Weather Service in Mobile says the Hurricane Hunters will be entering the storm later this afternoon and that should give forecasters more needed information.