Hurricane Michael howled closer to Florida's Gulf shore on Tuesday as a major Category 3 storm, and half a million coastal residents were urged to seek higher ground on the eve of a landfall forecast to bring towering waves and roof-shredding winds.
Forecasters on Wednesday warned people in the southern US state of Florida to be ready for the full impact of "extremely dangerous" Hurricane Michael.
Michael is moving north through the Gulf of Mexico and will likely become a major hurricane before making landfall Wednesday on the Florida Panhandle.
The unexpected brute quickly sprang from a weekend tropical depression and grew swiftly into what could be one of the Panhandle's worst hurricanes in history, with destructive wind, up to a foot of rain and a life-threatening storm surge of up to 13 feet.
Top sustained winds were reported to be near 140 miles per hour at 5am.
A red flag, warning of risky conditions, is seen as Hurricane Michael approaches Panama City Beach, Florida, U.S. October 10, 2018. Evacuations spanned 22 counties from the Florida Panhandle into north central Florida. But fears lingered that some failed to heed the calls to get out of Michael's way as the hard-charging storm began speeding north over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
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'This is going to have structure-damaging winds along the coast and hurricane force winds inland'. "There are warnings for more than 300 miles (480km) of coastline", the National Weather Service tweeted, predicting that Michael would become a "large and risky hurricane". Tropical storm winds extended 185 miles (295 kilometers) from the center, and hurricane-force winds reached out 45 miles (75 kilometers).
University of Georgia's Marshall Shepherd, a former president of the American Meteorological Society, called it a "life-altering event" on Facebook and said he watched the storm's growth on satellite images with a pit growing in his stomach.
A storm surge of up to 13 feet (four meters) is expected in some areas, the center said. Byard said an estimated 500,000 people face evacuation orders and advisories in Florida, where residents and tourists were fleeing low-lying areas in at least 20 counties stretching along 200 miles (322 km) of shore in the Panhandle and adjacent Big Bend regions.
Florida Governor Rick Scott has warned residents to evacuate.
The storm will drift into the Mid-Atlantic States and out to sea by Friday.
Forecasters in Alabama warned of possible tornados.
The storm was centred about 30 miles (48km) off the western tip of Cuba , and about 520 miles (837km) south of Apalachicola. This will place a low, but present threat for flash flooding , strong to damaging wind gusts, and isolated tornadoes.
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