President Donald Trump on Tuesday approved a pre-landfall emergency declaration at the request of Florida Gov. Rick Scott.
Hurricane Michael is packing winds of 145mph as it churns through the ocean and is expected to make landfall this afternoon local time (this evening BST).
"Outer band of Hurricane Michael coming ashore here", Jon Ward in Panama City said on Twitter. Around midday it was expected to become one of the Panhandle's worst hurricanes in memory with heavy rainfall expected along the northeastern Gulf Coast and life-threatening storm surge of up to 13 feet (4 meters). Forecasters said it also could bring 3 to 6 inches of rain to Georgia, the Carolinas and Virginia, triggering flash flooding in a corner of the country still recovering from Florence.
Scott implored residents on Wednesday to seek shelter and prepare for the monster storm.
People visit the beach while waiting for Hurricane Michael in Panama City Beach, Florida.
Alabama, Florida and Georgia have declared states of emergency in all or parts of the states.
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The Commodity Weather Group said Michael was not likely to cause much interruption to oil and gas production.
The storm was heading north at 13 mph (20 kph) and was about 90 miles (145 km) southwest of Panama City, Florida, the NHC said.
"The time for evacuating along the coast has come and gone", he warned later on Wednesday morning.
Florida's Panhandle, from Pensacola to Apalachicola, and its Big Bend area are the zones of greatest concern.
Mandatory evacuations have been ordered in several Florida counties and devastating effects are expected to expand far inland.
By late Tuesday, Michael was causing major disruptions to USA oil and gas production as it churned north, gathering greater strength over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico.President Donald Trump declared a state of emergency for the entire state of Florida, freeing up federal assistance to supplement state and local disaster response. About 2,500 National Guard troops were deployed to assist with evacuations and storm preparations, and more than 4,000 others were on standby. US producers in the Gulf cut oil production by about 40 percent and natural gas output by 28 percent on Tuesday, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement said.
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Michael is also expected to hit the Panhandle that day, with the potential to dump up to a foot of rain in the area. Tropical storm warnings extend farther south, to Chassahowitzka, Fla., and to the west, along the Alabama coast.
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Heavy Rain Becomes Threat as Michael Moves In
They also believe that Michael will produce four to eight inches of rain in Western Cuba, with maximum amounts of 12 inches. Before reaching the Gulf of Mexico, the storm will bring a threat of flooding rain around the northwestern Caribbean.
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