As of 11 p.m. Tuesday, the storm was packing winds of up to 125 miles per hour and still gaining strength in the Gulf of Mexico, but it was also already pushing storm surge into the Panhandle, according to the National Hurricane Center.
The National Hurricane Center in Miami says the hurricane was 395 miles (635 kilometers) south of Panama City, Florida, and 365 miles (590 kilometers) south of Apalachicola, Florida. It was one of the most intense hurricanes ever to hit the US mainland and the most powerful one on record to menace the Panhandle, a roughly 200-mile stretch of fishing towns, military bases and spring-break beaches. DISCUSSION AND OUTLOOK -------- At 1000 PM CDT (0300 UTC), the center of Hurricane Michael was located near latitude 27.1 North, longitude 86.5 West. Michael is moving toward the north near 12 miles per hour (19 km/h).
In Cuba, it dropped more than 10 inches (27 centimeters) of rain in places, flooding fields, damaging roads, knocking out power and destroying some homes in the western province of Pinar del Rio.
As of 5 a.m. ET on October 9, Michael's center was about 420 miles south of Panama City, Florida and 390 miles south of Apalachicola, Florida.
"Today is the day".
Meanwhile, tropical storm watches were in effect in some coastal areas of Mississippi, Florida, Georgia and SC. Coastal counties began issuing evacuation orders and opening emergency shelters at schools on Sunday, as member station WFSU reports.
Michael is forecast to hit the Florida coast Wednesday before moving over Alabama, Georgia and the Carolinas Wednesday night and Thursday.
The National Hurricane Center forecasts 4 to 8 inches of rain could fall on the Florida Panhandle, southeast Alabama and southern Georgia.
The weekend before Irma made landfall, Scott minced no words: "If you have been ordered to evacuate, you need to leave now", he said. "It looks like another big one".
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FEMA is already on the ground in Florida; other federal agencies are also preparing to assist people in the storm's path.
A top emergency manager expressed concern about storm preparations.
The storm should continue on its current direction until Wednesday, when it is expected to turn northeast and go ashore just east of Panama City. Hurricane conditions are possible within the hurricane watch area by Wednesday.
Storm surges could reach as high as 12 feet from Indian Pass to Ceder Key, Florida, the NHC warned.
"If you don't follow warnings from officials this storm could kill you", said Scott, a Republican running for the U.S. Senate in November's congressional elections.
The heavy waters will form part of the most powerful storm to strike the Panhandle in at least a decade. More than 80 deaths were linked to that storm, according to The Associated Press - including residents of a nursing home.
With a number of counties ordering evacuations, Scott waived highway tolls in the northwest part of the state.
Nathan Deal has issued an emergency declaration for much of the state as Hurricane Michael barrels closer to a likely landfall in Florida.