Mark Wallheiser via Getty Images Hurricane Michael was forecast to become a Category 3 storm with sustained winds of 120 miles per hour when it makes landfall in the Florida Panhandle.
By 8 a.m. Tuesday, top winds had reached 100 miles per hour (155 kph), and it was forecast to strengthen more, with winds topping 111 miles per hour (179 kph), capable of causing devastating damage.
The latest minimum central pressure based on data from an Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter aircraft is 957 mb. Scientists say global warming is responsible for more intense and more frequent extreme weather, such as storms, droughts, floods and fires.
"My God, it's scary". It was expected to blow ashore around midday Wednesday near Panama City Beach, along a lightly populated stretch of fishing villages and white-sand spring-break beaches.
At nightfall, the city was plunged into darkness, its flooded streets mostly silent and devoid of people or traffic. The lead-grey water was so high that roofs were about all that could be seen of many homes.
"Because of the damage caused by Hurricane Florence, and the fact that there's still some standing water in places, we have to be that much more alert about the damage that Hurricane Matthew could do", Cooper said. Michael is an upper-level category 4 hurricane.
But Brad Kieserman of the American Red Cross said Wednesday that as many as 320,000 people on Florida's Gulf Coast had disregarded mandatory or voluntary evacuation notices. "Take care of them", he said.
Bo Patterson, the mayor of Port St. Joe, just south of Mexico Beach, rode out the storm in his house seven blocks from the beach.
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"You know, that's hard", she said, choking back tears. "It's very, very scary".
"We've been through this before", she said.
"Storm surge is the No. 1 problem that you can see from these storms". "Evacuation routes can quickly turn into traffic nightmares". The storm's new categorization means it can cause well-constructed frame homes to "sustain major roof and siding damage".
At a press conference in Citrus County Tuesday afternoon, Governor Rick Scott said the storm is expected to intensify as it approaches Florida's panhandle.
Before Michael made landfall, about 30 million people were under a hurricane watch or warning, or tropical storm watch or warning, across six states (Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina).
President Donald Trump declared a state of emergency for all of Florida, freeing up federal assistance to supplement state and local disaster responses. Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey said she fears widespread power outages and other problems would follow. About 1,250 National Guard soldiers were aiding the process and more than 4,000 troops placed on standby, Scott tweeted. Alabama/Florida border to the Mississippi/Alabama border * Suwanee River Florida to Chassahowitzka Florida * north of Fernandina Beach Florida to South Santee River South Carolina A Tropical Storm Watch is in effect for...
Further inland, officials warned residents living in mobile homes that are especially vulnerable to hurricane-force winds.
Energy companies halted almost a fifth of Gulf of Mexico oil production and evacuated personnel from 10 platforms on Monday.