Hurricane Michael strengthened into a Category 2 storm on Tuesday morning with 100 miles per hour winds, continuing to gain power as it targets a forecast landfall in Florida's panhandle.
The last major hurricane - Category 3 or above - to hit the Panhandle was Hurricane Dennis, which made landfall near Pensacola in 2005, according to hurricane center data.
By 5 p.m. Monday, Michael's top sustained winds were around 80 miles per hour as it headed north at 9 miles per hour.
It is forecast by the National Hurricane Center to become a Category 3 storm before coming ashore on Wednesday in either the Panhandle or Big Bend area of the state.
The trajectory at press time Monday showed Michael making landfall in Florida before the cone passes directly over the Columbia area into central North Carolina. They predict Michael will bring torrential rains and winds upwards of 125 miles per hour. "There's nothing between us and this storm but warm water and I think that's what terrifies us about the potential impacts".
As we wrote earlier today, as much as $13.4 billion of property reconstruction values stand in hurricane Michael's path.
Now ranked as a Category 1 storm on the five-step Saffir-Simpson wind scale, Michael could grow into a Category 3, becoming the second major hurricane in the Atlantic basin this year following Florence last month, forecasters said.
Hurricane Michael continues to push towards the Gulf of Mexico and looks to continue its trend of rapidly strengthening.
He said: "We don't know if it's going to wipe out our house or not". The system has now graduated to Category 2 hurricane status and is expected to reach Category 3 (with winds in excess of 110 mph) when it makes its USA mainland landfall on Wednesday afternoon.
With an officiant standing in front of them, the couple said their vows on the beach as brisk winds brushed them.
Forecasters warn of life-threatening storm surge; Phil Keating reports from Apalachicola, Florida.
Elsewhere at Panama City Beach, many businesses were closed and homes were boarded up.
Tallahassee´s Democratic Mayor Andrew Gillum, who is campaigning to succeed Scott as governor in next month´s elections, suspended his campaign and returned to the state capital to oversee storm preparations. Local authorities fear power outages and major tree damage from Michael.
In advance of the storm on Monday, emergency managers ordered mandatory evacuations along the coast expected to see the fiercest winds and highest surge, including Wakulla, Franklin, Gulf and Bay counties.
Since 1851, Florida has had 36 hurricanes make October landfalls, including 10 major hurricanes.
The NHC says some coastal regions can expect 8 to 12 feet of storm surge - a flood or tsunami-like phenomenon of rising water after rainfall.
"The state is not taking this storm lightly and neither should any family".
The neighbouring state of Alabama has declared a state of emergency. Storm surge could be life-threatening, the winds will be destructive, and power outages will last for days or even weeks in the hardest-hit locations.
"The impact will be storm surge, very heavy rain and strong, gusty winds as it makes landfall", Bridges said. The governor has also warned that there is a "significant" chance of tornadoes.
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