"Monstrous" Hurricane Michael bore down on northwestern Florida on Tuesday and was expected to strengthen into a powerful Category 3 storm before hitting land on Wednesday, triggering unsafe coastal flooding and bringing high winds and torrential rains.
"It looks like what we are planning for Wednesday is tropical storm-force winds of 39 to 57 miles per hour", said Jonathan Lord, Flagler County's emergency services chief.
Forecasters say the center of Michael will continue to move over the southern Gulf of Mexico Tuesday morning. Landfall is expected Wednesday on Florida's northeast Gulf Coast.
On the Panhandle, Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan warned people against staying in their homes, saying emergency services would not be able to help them.
"We don't know if it's going to wipe out our house or not", Jason McDonald, of Panama City, said as he and his wife drove north into Alabama with their two children, ages 5 and 7. "That's the criticality of following directions".
Landfall is expected Wednesday on the northeastern Gulf Coast, where authorities warned of a potentially devastating strike.
The first rains from Michael already started to soak the Florida Keys on Monday.
Of the elderly and infirm patients, Scott had a blunt message for their caregivers: "If you're responsible for a patient, you're responsible for the patient". "You need to evacuate if you're ordered to do so". It's as simple as that.
"For those considering evacuation, I can't stress strongly enough the importance of leaving as early as possible", Bay County Sheriff Tommy Ford said on Facebook. "Current projections show large swaths of storm surge greater than nine feet above ground forecast across the region". "This storm will be life-threatening and extremely risky". "Do not think you can survive it".
"Today it is about life and safety", Gillum said.
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Federal Emergency Management Agency officials provided an update on Hurricane Michael on Tuesday. Plenty of water. I made sure we've got clean clothes.
Hurricane Michael escalated somewhat quickly.
In Alabama, where residents may see massive power outages, high winds and heavy rain, Gov. Kay Ivey issued a state of emergency statewide. "Hurricane conditions will also spread well inland across portions of the Florida Panhandle, southeastern Alabama and southwestern Georgia", the NHC advised.
Other Midlands counties were placed under a tropical storm watch Tuesday afternoon, including Lee County, Aiken County, Sumter County and Calhourn County.
The Panhandle, from Pensacola to Apalachicola, will experience the most significant effects from the hurricane.
Tallahassee City Commissioner Gil Ziffer warned that if the storm hits Florida's capital, there would be significant tree damage and power outages.
Thursday: Rain could be torrential in Charlotte on Thursday morning as the remnants of Hurricane Michael plow through the Carolinas.
Hurricane Michael was expected to strengthen on Tuesday in the Gulf of Mexico, taking aim at the Florida panhandle, where residents were implored to get out of harm's way ahead of life-threatening waves, winds and rains.
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. The rains could bring life-threatening flash flooding.
Hurricane Michael is poised to slam Florida's Panhandle by Wednesday afternoon, threatening risky storm surges to low-lying areas ill-equipped to handle them - and officials are urging people to get out of the way now.
A hurricane warning has been issued for the Alabama-Florida border to the Suwannee River, and a hurricane watch is in effect from the Alabama-Florida border to the Mississippi-Alabama border.