Hurricane Michael was upgraded to a category 3 storm Tuesday evening, on track to hit the Florida Panhandle on Wednesday as the most powerful hurricane to hit the mainland USA this year, The New York Times reported.
After daylight Thursday residents of north Florida would just be beginning to take stock of the enormity of the disaster.
By 11 a.m., Michael had winds of 110 miles per hour, just below a major Category 3 hurricane, and was getting stronger, drawing energy from Gulf waters with temperatures in the mid-80s.
The governors of North and SC urged residents to brace for more heavy rain and storm-force winds as Michael plows northward up the Atlantic seaboard.
Forecasters say the Category 2 storm should make landfall in the Florida panhandle tomorrow.
On Oct. 8, the MODIS instrument aboard NASA's Aqua satellite captured a visible image of Hurricane Michael when it was a Category 1 hurricane near the western tip of Cuba. Cuban authorities said they evacuated about 400 people from low-lying areas.
Mandatory evacuation orders went into effect in Bay County for people in Panama City Beach and other low-lying areas in the bull's-eye.
"The state is mobilizing all available resources to ensure public safety ahead of Hurricane Michael".
Storm surges of between nine and thirteen feet are now projected for the gulf coast between Mexico Beach, Florida (just south of Panama City on the Panhandle) and Keaton Beach on Florida's Big Bend.
Authorities are anxious about a storm surge that could be as high as 12 feet.
Michael wasn't quite done wreaking havoc in the Caribbean on Tuesday (Wednesday NZT). This rainfall could lead to life threatening flash floods. In addition, a Tropical Storm Warning is in effect from the Alabama/Florida border to the Mississippi/Alabama border and for Suwanee River, Florida to Chassahowitzka, Florida.
FEMA is already on the ground in Florida; other federal agencies are also preparing to assist people in the storm's path.
In the first apparent hurricane-related fatality reported, Gadsden County sheriff's spokeswoman, Anglie Hightower, said a "male subject" was killed by a tree toppling onto his house in Greensboro.
On Tuesday, Gov Scott said he activated 2,500 Florida National Guard troops in preparation for the storm. Up to a foot (30 cm) of rain was forecast in Florida. Many filled sandbags and boarded up homes and lined up to buy gas and groceries before leaving town. We could see gusts near 70 with the core of Michael going by. Category 5 storms occur when winds reach 157 miles per hour or higher. By that time, Michael is forecast to have winds of 125 miles per hour. "It is critical that you listen to local news for reports and warnings from local and state officials as Hurricane Michael approaches".
With Election Day less than a month away, the crisis was seen as a test of leadership for Scott, a Republican running for the Senate, and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, the Democratic nominee for governor. "There's nothing between us and this storm but warm water' and I think that's what terrifies us about the potential impacts".