The storm, with maximum sustained winds of 70 miles per hour, is expected to become a hurricane later today-and could be a major hurricane by Tuesday night or Wednesday.
Hurricane Michael is about 295 miles south of Panama City and has reached major hurricane strength with highest sustained winds of 120 mph.
"I haven't made up my mind yet, but I know some of my staff are going", said Dave Trepanier, owner of Firefly, a restaurant a block from the beach in Panama City, Bay County, an area where the hurricane is expected to come ashore. In the meantime, those facilities have established other ways to keep residents cool and safe, she added.
Forecasters also measure hurricane intensity by central pressure, with lower pressures denoting a tighter circulation, better organization, and more powerful storm.
The NHC warned that both could trigger deadly flooding, and that residents within the hurricane warning zone should likewise "prepare for life-threatening winds".
Forecasters say Hurricane Michael will strengthen into a major hurricane by late Tuesday as it continues on a unsafe path towards the southeastern US state of Florida.
"We are not under state statutes allowed to make mandatory evacuations", county spokesman Christopher Saul said.
"Michael could be one of the worst hurricanes to ever strike the Florida Big Bend and Florida Panhandle region", warned Weather Channel hurricane expert Rick Knabb. It developed into a hurricane on Monday, and by Tuesday, more than 180,000 people were already under mandatory evacuation orders. "We want to get them out of the way". The storm was centred about 724 kilometres south of Apalachicola. But forecasters said its winds and outer rainbands would begin to start lashing the coast hours ahead of the eye. "As we have seen before, it can change direction and impact any part of our state", Scott tweeted Monday. Bill Nelson, said a "wall of water" could cause destruction along the Panhandle. "We've got supplies to last us a week". The state agency held calls open to all hospitals and residential care facilities Monday to discuss resources and support, she said, and activated an online reporting system so facilities can communicate what they need and have available. "But in my experience, it's always blown way out of proportion". That included Pensacola Beach but not in Pensacola itself, a city of about 54,000.
The hurricane was forecast to deliver as much as 30cm of rain in parts of Florida, Georgia and SC.
Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, Florida's Democratic nominee for governor, helped people fill sandbags. Michael could be as strong as a category 3 storm at that time.
Michael could dump up to a foot (30 centimeters) of rain over some Panhandle communities before its remnants go back out to sea by way of the mid-Atlantic states over the next few days.
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By Tuesday, Michael was already causing major disruptions to USA oil and gas production as it churned north over the Gulf of Mexico.
Thankfully, Michael will be nothing like Florence for the Carolinas, but it will still bring wind and rain.
As the storm closed in on the USA, it caused havoc in the Caribbean.
In Cuba, it dropped more than 10 inches (27 centimeters) of rain in places, flooding fields, damaging roads, knocking out power and destroying some homes in the western province of Pinar del Rio.
Local authorities are stressing timely evacuation, too.
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