A weather expert for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Michael is expected to reach "major hurricane status" in 12 to 24 hours, with a potential of climbing to a Category 3 storm.
Due to make landfall in Florida at midday local time (5pm United Kingdom time), forecasters are warning that life-threatening storm surge, hurricane force winds and heavy rainfall is expected along the northwestern Gulf Coast.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott expanded a state of emergency declaration Tuesday to include 35 counties in preparation for the storm.
Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) delivered a troubling forecast of his own, saying there will be fatal consequences if people try to go out unprotected.
"We've got canned food and a can opener".
'I guess it's the worst-case scenario.
Hurricane Michael is poised to slam into the Panhandle as a 150-mph Category 4 storm, the strongest tropical system to make a direct hit to the area on record and bringing a massive storm surge that could swoop miles inland.
At 11 a.m. Wednesday, the eye of Michael was about 60 miles (95 kilometers) south-southwest of Panama City and 65 miles west-southwest of Apalachicola, moving north-northeast at 14 mph.
Tropical Storm warnings and watches have been issued for multiple counties in northeast SC and southeastern North Carolina, the same area hit last month by Hurricane Florence's winds and flash flooding.
Hurricane Michael is set to make landfall over the Florida Panhandle on Wednesday, the NHC predicts.
More than 375,000 Floridians were also placed under voluntary or mandatory evacuation orders in coastal regions ahead of Michael's approach, though some of those orders were not issued until Tuesday.
We do have a chance for severe weather with any squall that moves through and an isolated tornado can not be ruled out.
All hurricanes cause some damage, but forecasters are concerned about hurricanes hitting this part of the coastline because of the shape of the land, the many inlets, and the broad continental shelf.
Tyler and Heather Butler said they didn't realize the storm would be serious until Monday, and made a decision to hunker down at their Georgette Street home, just two miles from the beach. The NHC said the storm was packing sustained winds of up to 120 miles per hour (195 km per hour), jumping from a Category 2 to Category 3 hurricane on the five-step Saffir-Simpson wind scale.
Michael is the seventh hurricane of the year in the Atlantic Basin. The Carolinas are still recovering from the devastation caused by Hurricane Florence six weeks ago, and Michael is expected to be orders of magnitude stronger than Florence.
"Those that have chosen not to evacuate and they're on our coast, it's too late", Scott said on Fox & Friends. "Im freakin scared Im going to lose everything I own, man".
While Florence wrung itself out for days and brought ruinous rains, fast-moving Michael is likely to be more about wind and storm surge. Local authorities fear power outages and major tree damage from Michael.
State officials are taking steps to prepare as best as possible adding storm covers to government buildings and activating 2,500 national guardsmen to be on the alert. As such, he's declared a state of emergency in three dozen counties while ordering evacuations for 10 counties, including Panama City Beach.
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