As of late Tuesday, storm trackers were still seeing signs of Michael intensifying. Maximum sustained winds are near 50 miles per hour with higher gusts, the NHC said in an 5 a.m. AST advisory, adding that slow strengthening is forecast during the next few days.
"Hurricane Michael is forecast to be a Category 3 storm when it makes landfall and the impact could be devastating". It said it based the estimate on a storm-modeling tool that takes into account factors such as wind speed and the magnitude of the storm.
In Gulf County alone, the first to begin ordering residents of low-lying areas to higher ground, mandatory evacuation notices encompassed an estimated 3,800 homes, said Jessica Sasich of the county's emergency operations centre. It'll weaken to a tropical storm roughly Thursday morning over Georgia, "just the time that that cold front will be knocking on our doorstep, just over the Blue Ridge Mountains".
The storm, moving northward at 12 mph, was about 255 miles south of Panama City, Florida, according to a 8 p.m. ET advisory from the National Hurricane Center (NHC). Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 35 miles (56 kilometres) from the core and tropical-storm-force winds out up to 175 miles (282 kilometres). "It's forecast to be a large and risky hurricane at landfall".
People in areas that could be affected should take no chances against such a powerful surge, Scott said, adding, "No one's going to survive", such a wall of water.
A hurricane warning is in place from the Alabama-Florida border to the Suwannee River in Florida.
The most recent October landfalling hurricane in the Florida Panhandle was Hurricane Opal - a Category 3 storm in 1995.
The National Weather Service on Tuesday issued a tropical storm warning for Quitman County, about an hour's drive south of Columbus, while a tropical storm watch includes the Georgia counties of Chattahoochee, Marion, Schley, Sumter, Taylor and Webster, as well as Barbour County (Eufaula) in Alabama, south of Columbus and Phenix City.
"Life-threatening storm surge is likely along portions of the coasts of the Florida Panhandle, Big Bend, and Nature Coast, and a storm surge warning is in effect for these areas. Persons located within these areas should take all necessary actions to protect life and property from rising water and the potential for other risky conditions", the hurricane center said. More than 10,000 people were ordered out of Panama City Beach alone, effective at 6 a.m. Tuesday. Scott is urging people along the Gulf Coast to finish their storm preparations Monday evening. Residents also lined up to buy gas and groceries even as evacuations - both voluntary and mandatory - were expected to pick up the pace Tuesday. "And then you're riding it out in your auto instead of something else".
RMS said that, "Because Michael is expected to be a fast-moving storm, the potential impacts are nearly the opposite of what we saw in Florence".
President Donald Trump declared a state of emergency for the entire state of Florida, freeing up federal assistance to supplement state and local disaster response. He also activated hundreds of Florida National Guard members and waived tolls to encourage those living near the coast to evacuate inland.
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey issued a statewide state of emergency, saying on Twitter it was "in anticipation of wide-spread power outages, wind damage and debris produced by high winds & heavy rain associated with #HurricaneMichael".
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