Tropical storm warning in place for the US Gulf Coast

A storm system moving quickly toward the central U.S. Gulf Coast strengthened to a tropical storm early Monday, according to the National Hurricane Center.

As the storm crossed Florida's southern tip on Monday morning, officials closed the beaches in Miami-Dade County and warned of possible street flooding.

As of midday Monday, almost 2 million people were under hurricane watches and storm surge warnings, and over 13 million people were under tropical storm warnings.

Wind gusts of 48 mph were recorded in Fort Lauderdale, 49 mph in Pembroke Pines, and 51 mph in Opa-locka.

The hurricane center said Sunday evening that the weather system, then known as Tropical Cyclone Seven, was 115 miles east-southeast of Marathon and had maximum sustained winds of 30 mph at about 2 a.m. ET on Monday.

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In August, hurricane experts at Colorado State University said conditions in the Atlantic - cooler-than-average ocean surface temperatures and varying wind speeds - have diminished the chances of a hurricane striking the US during the remainder of the hurricane season, which goes until November 30.

No oil refinery production has been shut in the Gulf due to the storm, but plants were securing loose items to prevent damage from the winds. No impacts from the system are expected for eastern Carolina. As much as 8 inches (20 centimeters) of rain could fall in some parts of the Gulf states through late Thursday.

Storm surges from 3 to 5 feet are expected from Shell Beach to the Mississippi-Alabama border, and from 2 to 4 feet from Navarre, Fla., to the Mississippi-Alabama border, and from Shell Beach to the mouth of Mississippi River. It's expected to be a hurricane when it makes landfall along the central Gulf Coast by Tuesday night. Meanwhile, rainfall totals up to 150 mm are possible for southern Alabama, southern MS and Louisiana. As it approached the upper Florida Keys, it strengthened and was reclassified.

The storm was moving west-northwest at 17 miles per hour (28 kph).

The storm began as a tropical wave over the Caribbean last week. Maximum sustained winds were clocked at 45 miles per hour (75 kph).

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