As a result, the northeastern Gulf Coast is undergoing mandatory evacuations - that includes the Florida Panhandle (stretching into Big Bend) as well as parts of southeast Alabama and southern Georgia.
Hurricane Michael has grown into a Category 3 hurricane, with sustained winds reaching 120 miles per hour, as it barrels toward northwestern Florida, making it a much stronger storm than Hurricane Florence was when it made landfall as a Category 1 storm drenching the Carolinas last month, according to the National Hurricane Center. The storm also is expected to contribute to generally rainy conditions through Thursday.
"Historically, hurricanes that approach the Florida coast in this area tend to weaken slightly prior to landfall, but little difference in impact related to wind and storm surge is likely regardless", Kottlowski said.
Hurricane Michael grew stronger Tuesday as it roared toward Florida's Gulf Coast, gaining Category 2 status and threatening to wreak historic devastation on a state walloped by Hurricane Irma's historic rage 13 months ago. After Hurricane Irma a year ago, 14 people died when a South Florida nursing home lost power and air conditioning.
"If you're responsible for a patient, you're responsible for the patient".
"I feel like that they should've provided something", she said.
In the small Panhandle city of Apalachicola, Mayor Van Johnson Sr. said the 2,300 residents are frantically preparing for a major hurricane strike that could be unlike any seen there in decades.
"I know people are worn out from Florence, but don't let this storm catch you with your guard down", North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said, adding, "A number of homes have rooftop tarps that could be damaged or blown away with this wind".
By Monday evening, lines had formed at gas stations and grocery stories as people sought emergency supplies even as evacuations were expected to intensify in coming hours.
There will be no shelters open in Wakulla County, the sheriff's office warned on Facebook, because they are rated safe only for hurricanes with top sustained winds below 178kmh.
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Officials urged residents in Michael's projected path to evacuate before it's too late - or risk being cut off from rescue. "That means the water will come miles in shore and could easily be over the roofs of houses", Scott said.
Even neighbors in Alabama were bracing.
Michael is not expected to be a reprise of Florence, which pummeled the state for several days, producing record rainfall and river flooding, and has been blamed on 40 deaths in the state.
The earliest reasonable time the winds could arrive in the southern part of the United States is around 8 p.m. Tuesday, according to the hurricane center. Hurricane-force winds extended outward 45 miles (75 kilometers) from its center. However, there's still a chance that track changes and Michael brings its heavy rain right through the region.
Forecasters warn of life-threatening storm surge; Phil Keating reports from Apalachicola, Florida.
The last major hurricane - Category 3 or above - to hit the Panhandle was Hurricane Dennis, which made landfall near Pensacola in 2005, according to hurricane center data.
Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum helped residents in Florida's capital fill sandbags as the monster storm loomed.
Volusia County Beach Safety secured non-essential equipment off of the beach due to the predicted wind and swell, said spokeswoman Captain Tamara Malphurs.
"There's nothing between us and this storm but warm water, and I think that's what terrifies us about the potential impacts", Gillum said. Local authorities fear power outages and major tree damage from Michael.
Earlier, a Hurricane Hunter aircraft had reported Michael's eyewall was a little less organized, however they noted overnight that the hurricane had been defying all odds by strengthening Monday even while enduring wind shear.
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