At least 120,000 people along the Florida Panhandle were ordered to clear out on Tuesday as Hurricane Michael rapidly picked up steam in the Gulf of Mexico and closed in with winds of 120 miles per hour and a potential storm surge of 13 feet. "I ask all Georgians to join me in praying for the safety of our people and all those in the path of Hurricane Michael".
Michael is forecast to be the most destructive storm to hit the Panhandle in decades. "It will be life-threatening and extremely risky".
Here is the storm's latest forecast bubble ... The storm's maximum sustained winds have decreased to 50 miles per hour (80 kph) and it was moving to the northeast at 21 miles per hour (33 kph).
"Today is the day".
However, the National Hurricane Centre (NHC) said that winds picked up at certain points along the Georgia and SC coast. "It's not just a coastal issue".
A National Guard team got into Mexico Beach and found 20 survivors overnight, and more crews were pushing into the area in the morning, with the fate of many other residents unknown.
"This happened so quickly, we weren't exactly prepared", he said. As Michael moves inland, southern Georgia and southeastern Alabama can expect damaging winds, too.
At landfall, it was almost a Category 5 storm that smashed records as the strongest ever to roar onto the state's exposed Panhandle. "It looks like another big one".
The Coast Guard said it rescued at least 27 people before and after the hurricane came ashore, mostly from homes along the Florida coastline, and searched for more victims.
The governor activated 750 National Guardsmen for storm response on Monday, on top of the 500 activated the day before. 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.
"Along our coast, communities are going to see unimaginable devastation", Scott said, with storm surge posing the greatest danger.
Voluntary evacuations were also ordered for Santa Rosa, Hernando, Leon and Liberty counties. We are also working with federal, state and local officials to provide public shelter and accommodate those evacuating from other states.
The Carolinas are still recovering from Hurricane Florence, which left dozens dead and is estimated to have caused billions of dollars in damage last month.
A Panhandle man was killed by a tree toppling on a home, Gadsden County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Anglie Hightower said.
Storm warnings have been issued across most of the Gulf Coast, from Tampa to much of the Panhandle.
Michael is shaking up the upcoming election in the battleground state of Florida.
"I've already lost one house to a hurricane, and I'm scared to death of this one", she said.
"A northward motion is expected through tonight, followed by a northeastward motion on Wednesday and Thursday", NHC analysts predicted.
Florida Fish and Wildlife has put 40 additional law enforcement officers on notice to deploy with a variety of special equipment, including boats that can be used for high-water rescues.
Hurricane-force winds extend outward from Michael's center of circulation for 45 miles.
Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. It could send life-threatening surges of ocean water to coastal areas throughout the state.
- Storm riders: Roughly 375,000 people in Florida warned to evacuate; many refused, including 285 people in Mexico Beach where Michael made landfall. The agency said the storm's steady intensification over the past two days despite shifting westerly winds defies traditional logic. According to Accuweather, the heavy rain and gusty winds will continue for a few more hours. President Donald Trump has endorsed Scott and DeSantis. He's committed to providing any federal resources Florida may need. It was centered about 30 miles southwest of Macon, Georgia.
Forecasters say that 4 to 8 inches of rain is expected along the path of the storm, and 12 inches could fall in some parts of the Panhandle.
In Georgia, governor Nathan Deal declared a state of emergency for 92 of Georgia's 159 counties. David Peaton is the deputy director of emergency management in Levy County, which faces the Gulf of Mexico. As you can see, houses have been completely leveled. You have rain. You have wind. "This storm surge is coming with a vengeance".
Even before landfall, the hurricane disrupted energy operations in the Gulf, cutting crude oil production by more than 40 percent and natural gas output by almost one-third as offshore platforms were evacuated before the storm hit.