After Hurricane Irma past year, 14 people died when a South Florida nursing home lost power and air conditioning. Weakening is expected after the storm makes landfall.
Residents and officials alike have said they were surprised by how quickly the storm came together, particularly compared to the much slower approach of recent hurricanes like Irma a year ago and Florence last month in the Carolinas. The storm will track off the coast of Atlantic Canada late Friday into Saturday, before departing into the north Atlantic Saturday night.
The storm's biggest impact in the state will be felt south and east of Interstate 85, particularly in southern coastal counties, says the National Weather Service.
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey declared a state of emergency for her state Tuesday because of expected wide-spread power outages and wind damage.
Carol Cathey boards up her daughter's business in Mexico Beach, Florida, as Hurricane Michael approaches.
"Storm surge is the No. 1 problem that you can see from these storms".
The hurricane is 90 miles south-west of Panama City as of 8am eastern time. Apalachicola Regional Airport recorded a wind gust of 56 miles per hour, the center said.
President Trump has approved Florida's declaration of emergency.
Major Hurricane Michael to reach Panhandle Wednesday; multiple adversities for local area
According to the NHC , Michael will likely make landfall early Wednesday morning, and is "forecast to be a risky major hurricane". A major hurricane is defined as Category 3 or greater on the Saffir-Simpson scale, with sustained winds of 111mph or greater.
The storm's winds have increased to about 130 miles per hour with higher gusts, the National Hurricane Center said.
"If you decide to stay in your home and a tree falls on your house or the storm surge catches you and you're now calling for help, there's no one that can respond to help you", Morgan said at a news conference.
Most waterfront homes stood vacant in Keaton Beach, which forecasters said could get some of the highest water - seas up 9 feet (2.75 meters) above ground level.
A hurricane warning was in place from the Alabama-Florida border to the Suwannee River in Florida.
Tropical storm warnings and watches are in effect all along the Southeast coast as far north as the Outer Banks, per TWC.
"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.
"No one's going to survive" such a wall of water, he said. "So, we need the residents to be leaving today because, by this evening, those bridges are going to be in peril of being closed".
"The time for evacuating along the coast has come and gone".
The National Weather Service is now warning that Michael is a "potentially catastrophic" weather event, which could result in "the strongest hurricane to landfall" upon Florida's Panhandle in over a decade.
North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper told residents: "I know people are tired from Florence, but don't let this storm catch you with your guard down". Tolls were suspended in Northwest Florida as of Tuesday, to assist with travel and evacuation plans.