Richland, Lexington counties under tropical storm watch as Michael approaches

As Hurricane Michael barrels through the Gulf of Mexico and takes aim at Florida and the Carolinas, Richland and Lexington counties were placed under a Tropical Storm Watch, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The watch was issued at about 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, according to NOAA. The designation means tropical storm force winds (39 to 73 mph) are expected in the area within 48 hours.

The National Weather Service issued a flash flooding watch for both Richland and Lexington counties Tuesday afternoon, according to their website. The flood watch will be in effect from Wednesday evening into Thursday evening.

Though the Midlands area is not expecting hurricane-force winds, the Columbia area could experience a harder impact than it did during Hurricane Florence, forecasters said Tuesday.

The Columbia area is expected to see winds around 40 mph during the height of the storm Thursday at about noon, according to the National Weather Service. Rainfall totals are expected to be between 3.5 and 4 inches.

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Other Midlands counties were placed under a tropical storm watch Tuesday afternoon, including Lee County, Aiken County, Sumter County and Calhourn County.

Orangeburg County is under a Tropical Storm Warning, meaning that area could see stronger winds sooner as Michael makes its way into the state