"#HurricaneMichael isn't heading to any one town..."
Hurricane Michael quickly intensified into a Category 2 over warm Gulf of Mexico waters on Tuesday (Wednesday NZ Time) amid fears it would strike Florida on Wednesday (Thursday NZT) as an even stronger hurricane.
Most of the region will see winds at 25-35 miles per hour.
Wednesday: By Wednesday morning, the storm's gale-force winds (around 40 mph) will have reached the Panhandle.
In a Facebook post Monday, the Wakulla County Sheriff's Office said no shelters would be open because Wakulla County shelters were rated safe only for hurricanes with top sustained winds below 111 miles per hour (178 kph).
The storm's steady intensification over the past two days, despite shifting winds, "defies traditional logic" according to the agency.
The Category 1 storm was centered about 390 miles (627 kilometers) south of Apalachicola and 420 miles (675 kilometers) south of Panama City, Florida.
Michael was expected to strengthen to a major category three storm by Tuesday with winds of more than 160km/h, making it one of the most powerful storms to hit the Panhandle of Florida in decades, state officials said. From there, Michael would move northeastward across the southeastern states on Wednesday night and Thursday.
Additional warnings and watches are in effect to the west and south along the Gulf Coast and to the north and east in some inland counties, where evacuations began on Monday.
The storm then looks destined to move through the southeast USA on Thursday as a tropical storm, bringing heavy rains to Georgia and the Carolinas, before moving back out to the Atlantic on Friday.
"The impact will be storm surge, very heavy rain and strong, gusty winds as it makes landfall", Bridges said.
An entire neighborhood between 40th Street and 42nd Street in Mexico Beach Fla. was wiped out by Hurricane Michael Thursday Oct. 11 2018
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 unsafe major hurricane within days.
He declared a state of emergency for 35 Florida counties from the Panhandle to Tampa Bay, activated hundreds of Florida National Guard members and waived tolls to encourage those near the coast to evacuate inland. "This storm will be life-threatening and extremely risky". Plenty of water. I made sure we've got clean clothes.
"Everybody's got to get ready. You need to take care of yourselves".
Tallahassee City Commissioner Gil Ziffer warned that if the storm hits Florida's capital, there would be significant tree damage and power outages. The governor has declared a state of emergency in 35 counties, and is stressing that residents should "absolutely" evacuate if ordered to.
Some areas along the state's Big Bend area could see unsafe storm surge between six and 12 feet as Michael nears, the Hurricane Center reported.
The governor's declaration activates the state's emergency operations plan, according to Ivey's office. However, forecasters always note it is not possible to say where a hurricane will land until it is closer to the coast.
In the Caribbean, a hurricane warning for the Cuban province of Pinar del Rio was downgraded to a tropical storm warning Tuesday morning, while a tropical storm warning was discontinued for the Isle of Youth.
Neighbouring counties within Tallahassee are covered by similar alerts, with hurricane and storm surge warnings in place across the entire state.
During a briefing Tuesday, Scott said the state's emergency response center is now active and includes a 24-hour response hotline. Rainfall totals are expected to be between 3.5 and 4 inches.
The Panhandle, from Pensacola to Apalachicola, will experience the most significant effects from the hurricane.
"I just got a crew that came in that are staying also and they're in here helping me get everything buttoned up, tightened down, getting the food secure", Givens said.