Additional strengthening is projected over the next twenty-four hours, with Michael "forecast to be a major hurricane at landfall in Florida".
As Hurricane Michael approaches the Gulf Coast, it is now being deemed a category 2 storm. "On the forecast track, the center of Michael will move across the eastern Gulf of Mexico through tonight", the agency said.
In Mexico Beach, population 1,000, the storm shattered homes, leaving floating piles of lumber. The warning is issued just prior to when the strongest winds of the eyewall are expected to impact an area.
Hurricane Michael, now a Category 2 storm, is expected to strike the Florida Panhandle as a Category 3 storm, bringing life-threatening storm surge and rainfall flooding as well as destructive winds.
"Hurricane Michael can not break Florida", Scott vowed.
"Guess what? That's today", National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham said.
"Water will come miles in shore and could easily rise over the roofs of houses", he said.
"The storm surge is absolutely deadly".
With a number of counties ordering evacuations, Scott waived highway tolls in the northwest part of the state. It was the most powerful hurricane to hit the continental U.S.in almost 50 years and at least one death was reported during its passage.
Smith, in Gadsden County, said the situation was unsafe even for emergency personnel.
"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.
Michael charges into U.S. Southeast after slamming north Florida
A water-level station in Apalachicola, close to where Michael came ashore, reported a surge of almost 8 feet (2.5 meters). A pine tree punched a hole in their roof and his ears even popped when the barometric pressure went lower.
Incredible NASA footage shows Hurricane Michael's swirling vortex from space
A Panhandle man was killed by a tree that toppled on a home, Gadsden County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Anglie Hightower said. As of around 8pm, Michael was about 20 miles southwest of Albany, Georgia, with winds of 100 mph, becoming a category 1 storm.
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Smith could not provide details on the victim.
General Terrence O Shaughnessy, commander of North American Aerospace Defense Command, said some Florida residents may have been surprised by the rapid growth of the storm.
STORM SURGE: The combination of a risky storm surge and the tide will cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded by rising waters moving inland from the shoreline. It developed into a hurricane on Monday, and by Tuesday, more than 140,000 people were under mandatory evacuation orders.
Only three major hurricanes have made landfall in the Panhandle since 1950: Eloise in 1975, Opal in 1995 and Dennis in 2005. As the tropical storm continued to weaken it was still menacing the Southeast with heavy rains, blustery winds and possible spinoff tornadoes.
Michael also ranked as the third-strongest storm on record to make landfall in the continental United States, after Hurricane Camille on the Mississippi Gulf Coast in 1969 and the so-called Labor Day hurricane of 1935 in the Florida Keys. It is moving north (350 degrees) at around 12 miles per hour, packing maximum sustained winds of 120 miles per hour.
DISCUSSION AND OUTLOOK - the eye of Hurricane Michael was located near latitude 26.0 North, longitude 86.4 West. Michael is moving toward the north near 12 miles per hour. "If they tell you to leave, you have to leave".
The NOAA's National Hurricane Centre (NHC) forecasts Michael will become a Category 3 hurricane on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale before coming ashore on Wednesday midday over the Panhandle or the Big Bend area.
"This situation has NEVER happened before", it said on Twitter.
A Hurricane Warning is in effect for the Alabama/Florida border to Suwannee River Florida, and a Hurricane Watch is in effect from the Alabama/Florida border to the Mississippi/Alabama border.
The Carolinas are still recovering from Hurricane Florence, which left dozens dead and is estimated to have caused billions of dollars in damage last month.