The earliest reasonable time the winds could arrive in the southern part of the United States is around 8 p.m. Tuesday, according to the hurricane center.
Major hurricane Michael continues to intensify and grow as the eye points toward a landfall in the Panama City - Appalachicola area about 3-7 pm Wednesday.
On its current path, Tropical Storm Michael is projected to move northward past the Yucatan Peninsula and into the Gulf of Mexico by late Sunday afternoon or Sunday evening.
The storm is threatening risky surges to low-lying areas ill-equipped to handle them. Forecasters said tornadoes could spin off the storm and 7.5cm to 15cm of rain could cause flash floods as it barrels over a corner of the country still recovering from Hurricane Florence. They predict Michael will bring torrential rains and winds upwards of 125 miles per hour.
Michael's maximum sustained winds increased to 90 miles per hour on Monday night, the National Hurricane Center reported in its 11 p.m. EST update. "Today is the day to get a plan, because tomorrow could be too late".
Residents of Florida's Panhandle frantically filled sandbags, boarded up homes and secured boats Monday as they anxiously awaited Hurricane Michael, which forecasters warned could smash into the state's Gulf Coast as a risky major hurricane within days.
Tens of thousands of residents and tourists were ordered evacuated from low-lying areas in at least 20 Florida counties stretching along 200 miles (322 km) of shore in the Panhandle and adjacent Big Bend regions.
Tropical storm warnings were issued for the coasts of Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. As much as a foot (30 cm) of rain is forecast across Florida, Georgia and SC, the center reported.
Everyone in hurricane and storm surge warning zones should prepare for life-threatening winds, the NHC said.
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Florida Governor Rick Scott declared a state of emergency for 35 counties, activating 500 National Guard troops in preparation for the storm.
Hurricane Michael would be the first major hurricane to hit the panhandle since Hurricane Dennis in 2005, which made landfall near Pensacola, according to hurricane center data. "It looks like another big one", he added. All told, over 100 counties throughout multiple states have received emergency declarations, and this CNN clip shows the storm's frightening approach on radar. "There are warnings for more than 300 miles of coastline. Some areas along the Florida Gulf Coast are especially vulnerable to storm surge, regardless of the storm's exact track or intensity", the National Hurricane Center said in an advisory.
Panama City could see a storm surge at depths from 6 to 9 feet. But Michael will also have implications further away.
Scientists have long warned that global warming will make storms more destructive, and some say the evidence for this may already be visible. "Do not think you can survive it", Scott said.
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