Michael now a major hurricane headed for Florida Panhandle

While hurricane-force winds of over 74 miles per hour will be confined to a relatively small area, tropical-storm winds of 39 to 73 miles per hour will occur over a much larger zone and could result in minor structural damage and many downed trees and power outages.

"Storm surge is absolutely deadly", Scott said. "You can not hide from this storm".

Michael has strengthened to a major hurricane with wind speeds of 120 miles per hour as it churns across the eastern Gulf of Mexico, according to the latest advisory from the National Hurricane Center. It was moving to the north at 12 mph with maximum sustained winds of 100 mph, that's up from 100 mph from the previous advisory.

President Donald Trump, who was in Orlando delivering an address to a global association of police chiefs, said the federal government was ready and urged residents to be prepared for the worst.

The governor activated 750 national guardsman for storm response on Monday, on top of the 500 activated the day before. Residents also lined up to buy gas and groceries even as evacuations - both voluntary and mandatory - were expected to pick up the pace Tuesday.

Some of the population centers that could witness some of the most severe hurricane effects include Fort Walton Beach, Destin, Panama City Beach and Apalachicola.

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

Interests along the northeastern and central Gulf Coast areas are advised to monitor the progress of Tropical Storm Michael. The fix bill came in at more than $60 billion, ranking Irma among the most costly storms in US history.

His opponent in Florida's Senate race, Senator Bill Nelson, said a "wall of water" could cause major destruction along the Panhandle. Heavy rain could trigger the same kind of risky flash flooding in the Big Bend, Panhandle, Georgia and SC, forecasters warned. At that strength, it would rank as the most powerful storm to strike the Panhandle in more than a decade.

In Alabama, where residents may see massive power outages, high winds and heavy rain, Gov. Kay Ivey issued a state of emergency statewide.

In Georgia, Gov. Nathan Deal declared an emergency for 92 counties.

"I ask all Georgians to join me in praying for the safety of our people and all those in the path of Hurricane Michael", Deal said.

Commercial boats leave the Destin Harbor in Destin, Fla., on Monday, Oct. 8, 2018.

Forecasters warned of coastal flooding with storm surge and tides projected to raise water levels by as much as eight to 12 feet in some areas.

"I know people are worn out from Florence, but don't let this storm catch you with your guard down", North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said, adding, "A number of homes have rooftop tarps that could be damaged or blown away with this wind".

The hurricane center, citing Michael's unsafe trifecta of storm surge, flash flooding and winds, described the seventh hurricane of the Atlantic season as "life-threatening". Forecasters warned that the storm could produce up to a foot (30 centimetres) of rain in western Cuba, potentially triggering flash floods and mudslides in mountainous areas. "They are their best first responders".

A hurricane warning is in effect from the Suwannee River on Florida's Gulf Coast west to the Alabama / Florida line.

AccuWeather predicted the storm's economic impact damage will approach $15 billion.

"It is a monstrous storm and the forecast (keeps) getting more risky", Florida Governor Rick Scott said.

"We are running out of time", Scott said in a post on Twitter.

  • Tracy Klein