Scott warns Floridians of hurricane 'devastation,' storm surge

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

"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.

"We expect less rain to fall when compared to Florence", said AccuWeather senior meteorologist Dan Kottlowski. Because he owns two businesses in the area, Givens, who lives inland, said he was not evacuating.

"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.

A storm surge up to 12 feet is possible along portions of Florida's Gulf Coast from Steinhatchee to Apalachicola Bay.

Michael also could dump up to 30 centimetres of rain over some Panhandle communities before it sweeps over Alabama, Georgia, the Carolinas and Virginia on Wednesday and Thursday (Thursday and Friday NZT). Some southern Alabama counties were under a tropical storm watch Monday afternoon.

After hitting Florida, the storm is forecast to move north-east on Wednesday and Thursday along the Atlantic Coast and batter the Carolinas, which are still recovering from Hurricane Florence last month.

Hurricane Michael would be the first major hurricane to hit the panhandle since Hurricane Dennis in 2005, which made landfall near Pensacola, according to hurricane center data. It was moving to the north at 12 mph with maximum sustained winds of 100 mph, that's up from 100 mph from the previous advisory.

The National Hurricane Center, citing Michael's unsafe trifecta of storm surge, flash flooding and winds, described the seventh hurricane of the Atlantic season as "life-threatening", and the Florida Division of Emergency Management warned on Twitter of the storm's "rapid intensification" ahead of landfall.

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A hurricane hunter plane that bounced into the swirling eye off the western tip of Cuba found wind speeds rising.

Michael is still wobbling in the northern Caribbean, on the brink of entering the Gulf and a more northward motion is expected to develop in the overnight hours and throughout Tuesday before an approaching cold front begins to push the hurricane northeast into the Florida Panhandle. "You will see power outages", said Jeff Byard, associate administrator for the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Office of Response and Recovery.

Emergency officials in both counties and statewide are closely watching the hurricane.

Coastal storm surges of up to 12 feet (3.7 meters) are expected along the panhandle.

A top emergency manager expressed concern about storm preparations. Residents of this Florida panhandle city were busy Monday readying themselves for Hurricane Michael, which is predicted to make landfall somewhere around Panama City, Fla.

Mandatory evacuation orders went into effect on Tuesday morning (Wednesday NZT) for some 120,000 people in Panama City Beach and across other low-lying parts of the coast. By 8 a.m. Tuesday, top winds had reached 100 miles per hour (155 kph), and it was forecast to strengthen into a "major" hurricane, with winds topping 111 miles per hour (179 kph).

In a Facebook post Monday, the Wakulla County Sheriff's Office said no shelters would be open because Wakulla County shelters were rated safe only for hurricanes with top sustained winds below 111 miles per hour. He repeatedly and forcefully urged state residents to evacuate with an intensity not seen Tuesday.

"We've been through this before", Sally Crown said she closed the cafe where she works because the city was shutting off the sewer system in anticipation of the storm.

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