Michael could strengthen to Category 4 before landfall

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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.

Wind speeds could increase to around 35-40 miles per hour, according to the National Weather Service, and officials would be forced to close the Sunshine Skyway Bridge if maximum sustained winds reach the 40 miles per hour threshold.

Florida Panhandle's Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan issued a chilling warning to residents who choose to ride out the storm at home.

His opponent in Florida's Senate race, Sen. Bill Nelson, said a "wall of water" could cause destruction along the Panhandle.

"If you're responsible for a patient, you're responsible for the patient", said Scott. Residents of this Florida panhandle city were busy Monday readying themselves for Hurricane Michael, which is predicted to make landfall somewhere around Panama City, Fla.

Scott said his main concern from the rapidly developing hurricane is storm surge, which the National Weather Service estimates could reach eight to 12 feet between Indian Pass in Gulf County and Cedar Key in Levy County and top six feet from Crystal River in Citrus County to the Okaloosa-Walton County Line.

Ford says "people need to start leaving now", adding that the roads are going to get "more and more congested as time goes on".

Hurricane warnings are in place as the storm will bring strong winds - now gusting to 150 miles per hour, heavy rain, potential tornadoes, and significant storm surge to the area.

While Florence took five days between the time it turned into a hurricane and the moment it rolled into the Carolinas, Michael gave Florida what amounted to two days' notice.

Scott has declared an emergency in 35 Florida counties and activated hundreds of National Guard troops.

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.

"If you're responsible for a patient, you're responsible for the patient". To prepare, he said people should put essential documents in waterproof bags as they plan to evacuate to a safer area.

The last major hurricane to hit northwest Florida was in 2005, when Hurricane Dennis made landfall at Santa Rosa Island, FL, as a Category 3 storm, the Northwest Florida Daily Newsreported.

"You can not hide from storm surge", he said.

The heavy waters will form part of the most powerful storm to strike the Panhandle in at least a decade. Many filled sandbags and boarded up homes and lined up to buy gas and groceries before leaving town.

"In this area where the storm is expected to make landfall there have only been about three hurricanes of this strength in all of history", Holthaus said Tuesday in an interview on Cheddar.

As of the 4 p.m. advisory Tuesday, Michael had winds of 120 miles per hour. With Michael's winds projected to be even stronger, residents there were urged to evacuate inland.

In Alabama, Gov. Kay Ivey has placed the entire state under an emergency declaration. The governor has also warned that there is a "significant" chance of tornadoes.

As the Category-4 storm bore down on Florida, one man thought he'd be fine to take the dinghy out.