With the storm next entering the eastern part of the Gulf of Mexico, which has warm water and favorable atmospheric conditions, "There is a real possibility that Michael will strengthen to a major hurricane before landfall", Robbie Berg, a hurricane specialist at the Miami-based storm forecasting hub, wrote in an advisory.
Michael surprised forecasters Monday when an investigating flight found the storm more organized than expected and growing stronger. Forecasters warned of up to 30cm of rain in western Cuba, triggering flash floods and mudslides in mountain areas, and disaster agencies in El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua reported 13 deaths as roofs collapsed and residents were carried away by swollen rivers. They predict Michael will bring torrential rains and winds upwards of 125 miles per hour.
Now, battling wind shear but emerging in the Gulf of Mexico, it's a strengthening hurricane, with winds up to 110 miles per hour as of 11 a.m. Tuesday.
"Today is the day".
US Rep. Neal Dunn, whose district includes Panama City, urged people under evacuation orders to get out before tropical-storm-force winds arrived.
On Monday and Tuesday, the storm has taken advantage of low wind shear-allowing it to maintain a tight circulation and organized vertical structure-as well as warm, late-summer waters in the Gulf of Mexico to intensify.
Michael was moving north at 12 miles per hour.
The National Weather Service is now warning that Michael is a "potentially catastrophic" weather event, which could result in "the strongest hurricane to landfall" upon Florida's Panhandle in over a decade.
Michael is expected to produce the following rainfall amounts through Friday...
"We expect Hurricane Michael to make landfall near Panama City, Florida, Wednesday midday or early afternoon", according to AccuWeather forecaster Dan Kottlowski. Using the most recent storm surge prediction for Michael-released by NOAA at 11 am Eastern today-and property level data provided by Zillow, our preliminary analysis indicates that almost 50,000 coastal properties are at risk of storm surge inundation, though many more could be affected by flash flooding and heavy rain throughout the southeast. "It looks like another big one".
Scott called the storm "monstrous", adding, "We haven't seen anything like this in the Panhandle in decades".
Warnings are in effect for more than 300 miles of coastline, the National Weather Service said.
Besides the risky storm surge, residents should also prepare for torrential rain and major flooding, Scott said, with 4 to 8 inches of rain expected and even 12 inches possible in some areas.
A Storm Surge Watch is in effect for... Authorities were also searching for a boy swept away by a river in Guatemala.
"The storm surge is absolutely deadly". "Don't think that you can ride this out if you're in a low-lying area", Nelson said on CNN.
Scott declared a state of emergency in 35 counties, mostly encompassing rural areas known for small tourist cities, beaches, wildlife reserves and the state capital, Tallahassee.
"You can not hide from storm surge, so. get out if an evacuation is ordered", he said.
Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.
With a number of counties ordering evacuations, Scott waived highway tolls in the northwest part of the state.
AccuWeather predicted the storm's economic impact damage will approach $15 billion.
"You will see damage to infrastructure".
"It is imperative that you heed the directions of your State and Local Officials".
In Panhandle counties, most state offices, schools and universities were closed for the rest of the week.
However, the cold front should pick up Michael as it moves north, and kick the center of it out to sea.
"I feel like that they should've provided something", she said.
Hurricane Michael is expected to hit Georgia and the Carolinas, which is only just recovering from widespread flooding unleashed by the powerful Hurricane Florence last month.