In advance of the storm on Monday, emergency managers ordered mandatory evacuations along the coast expected to see the fiercest winds and highest surge, including Wakulla, Franklin, Gulf and Bay counties. The designation means tropical storm force winds (39 to 73 mph) are expected in the area within 48 hours.
The storm was located about 395 miles south of Panama City and had picked up speed to 12 mph.
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.
Residents of northwest Florida had until early Tuesday to leave their homes ahead of Hurricane Michael, forecast to crash ashore midweek as a major Category 3 storm with "life-threatening" flash flooding possible. The biggest concerns with Michael, therefore, are winds and storm surge. The brunt of the storm will hit the Florida Panhandle and continue through Georgia and South Carolina Thursday before hitting central South Carolina and central North Carolina.
"Damaging winds will also extend inland across portions of the Florida Panhandle, southern Georgia, and southeast Alabama as Michael moves inland", the hurricane center cautioned.
Michael is still wobbling in the northern Caribbean, on the brink of entering the Gulf and a more northward motion is expected to develop in the overnight hours and throughout Tuesday before an approaching cold front begins to push the hurricane northeast into the Florida Panhandle.
Hurricane Michael has strengthened to a Category 2 hurricane.
"On the forecast track, the center of Michael will move across the eastern Gulf of Mexico through tonight", the hurricane center said.
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Florida Governor Rick Scott declared a state of emergency for 35 counties and said he was seeking a federal disaster declaration from President Donald Trump, who promised full support for Florida's efforts.
"This storm will be life-threatening and extremely unsafe", Scott said on Sunday.
"Everybody's got to get ready. Take care of them". Forecasters also warned spinoff tornadoes would also be a threat.
Meanwhile, Surfline is offering several live streams of beaches in Florida that may be impacted, including Twin Piers in Manatee County, Anna Maria Island beach, Panama City Beach, and the Venice Beach jetties.
Since the Sunshine State has been battered by so many hurricanes, including the destructive Hurricane Andrew in 1992, Floridians are better prepared to handle flooding than virtually any other state.
Florida State University has closed through Friday and the Pensacola International Airport is set to close Wednesday.
In Alabama, Gov. Kay Ivey issued a statewide state of emergency, saying on Twitter that it was "in anticipation of wide-spread power outages, wind damage and debris produced by high winds & heavy rain associated with #HurricaneMichael".
"We expect less rain to fall when compared to Florence", said AccuWeather senior meteorologist Dan Kottlowski.
"I am concerned about the cone of uncertainty as Hurricane Michael is leaning west today", Alabama Emergency Management Agency Director Brian Hastings said in a statement Monday.
The advisories for Hurricane Michael as of October 9, 2018.