"We expect conditions across the panhandle to deteriorate rapidly", Florida Governor Rick Scott said during a press conference on Wednesday morning. "Thousands of trees gave way to the tropical storm force winds".
But Michael is still boasting winds of 50 miles per hour (80 kph), according to the National Hurricane Center (NHC).
"Today is the day".
People in coastal parts of 20 Florida counties had been told to leave their homes but by Wednesday morning were told it was too late to flee.
Michael isn't alone. The National Hurricane Center says Hurricane Leslie and Tropical Storm Nadine are no threat to land over the open Atlantic Ocean, but Tropical Storm Sergio in the Pacific is blowing toward Mexico's Baja California Peninsula.
In its discussion, the center said the environment ahead of Michael was conducive to intensification. The storm's center is expected to move inland over the Florida Panhandle or Florida Big Bend area before moving northeastward across the Southeastern U.S.
The NHC warns that some regions of Florida may experience storm surges of up to 13ft (4m). Potentially catastrophic wind damage will occur along the coast, with risky winds affecting areas further north, including southern Georgia and southeast Alabama.
A Category 4 hurricane has never made landfall in Florida's panhandle.
President Trump has approved Florida's declaration of emergency.
It was the most powerful hurricane to hit the continental U.S. in almost 50 years and at least one death was reported during its passage. "It looks like another big one".
Meanwhile, the Coast Guard said it rescued at least 27 people, mostly from homes damaged along the Florida coastline, and searched for more victims. NHC said those areas will likely experience a "life-threatening" storm surge, where 9 to 13 feet of inundation is possible in the worst areas between Tyndall Air Force Base and Keaton Beach.
In Panama City, a train was blown off its tracks, a scene reminiscent of the 1935 Labor Day hurricane that struck the Keys.
"The storm surge is absolutely deadly".
"As you go east of Panama City, that's where that wall of water on the eastern side of the eye wall is", Sen. The governor has declared a state of emergency in 35 counties and is stressing that residents should "absolutely" evacuate if ordered to.
More than 19,000 utility workers from companies in Florida and across the country have started assessing the damages.
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The National Hurricane Center predicts Michael will stay a powerful and unsafe rainmaker as it moves across the U.S. Maximum sustained winds are forecast to be in the range of 40 to low 50 miles per hour range, according to the NWS.
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