It made landfall on the coast as a Category 1 hurricane on September 14 and drenched some parts of the state with 40 inches of rain. Byard said an estimated 500,000 people face evacuation orders and advisories in Florida, where residents and tourists were fleeing low-lying areas in at least 20 counties stretching along 200 miles (322 km) of shore in the Panhandle and adjacent Big Bend regions.
With maximum sustained winds of 140 miles per hour, Hurricane Micheal is bearing down on the Florida panhandle this morning, having intensified into what the National Weather Service called an "extremely dangerous" Category 4 hurricane.
The National Weather Service said Michael could produce life-threatening hazards along portions of the northeastern Gulf Coast, including storm surge, heavy rainfall, and hurricane-force winds.
The unexpected brute quickly sprang from a weekend tropical depression and grew swiftly into what could be one of the Panhandle's worst hurricanes in history, with destructive wind, up to a foot of rain and a life-threatening storm surge of up to 13 feet.
President Donald Trump declared a state of emergency for the entire state of Florida, freeing up federal assistance to supplement state and local disaster responses.
Carol Cathey boards up her daughter's business in Mexico Beach, Florida, as Hurricane Michael approaches.
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At 8 a.m. EDT, Michael was centered was about 90 miles (145 kilometers) from Panama City and Apalachicola, moving fast at 13 mph (21 kph).
"Steady to rapid strengthening is forecast during the next day or so, and Michael is forecast to become a major hurricane by Tuesday night", the NHC said. She was unsure how well her old, wood-framed apartment block would hold up.
"We've told those who stayed to have their life jackets on when the storm comes", Tress Dameron, Franklin County emergency management coordinator, told The News Herald in Panama City. "My greatest concern is not having electricity, and living on a fixed income, losing my food".
A tropical storm warning was issued from Fernandina Beach Florida to South Santee River South Carolina.
Five drilling rigs have been moved out of the storm's path, according to the US Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement.
Florida State University announced it was closing for the week on Tuesday, along with schools in Leon County, home to the state capital Tallahassee. Some 17,000 utility restoration workers were also on call.