In Gulf County alone, the first to begin ordering residents of low-lying areas to higher ground, mandatory evacuation notices encompassed an estimated 3,800 homes, said Jessica Sasich of the county's emergency operations centre.
Florida's governor mobilized National Guard troops and thousands of Gulf Coast residents were ordered evacuated on October 8, two days before Hurricane Michael was forecast to slam ashore with life-threatening waves, winds and rains.
State offices, schools and universities were to close on Tuesday through to the end of the week in Panhandle counties.
Hurricane Michael is expected to strengthen rapidly over the next 24 to 36 hours and will be "a risky major hurricane when it reaches the northeastern Gulf Coast on Wednesday", the National Hurricane Center says.
A map posted by the National Hurricane Center Monday afternoon shows the Columbus area with as much as an 80 percent chance of experiencing tropical storm winds from Michael, which would be at least 39 miles per hour.
The latest forecast track for Michael still brings the storm into Middle Georgia overnight Wednesday into Thursday morning. A storm surge of up to 12 feet is forecast for a large section of the Florida coast. Weakening is expected after landfall as Michael moves across the southeastern United States.
"Take this seriously and keep your family safe", Scott said from Bay County on Monday. Overnight Tuesday, Florida Gov.
Tallahassee´s Democratic Mayor Andrew Gillum, who is campaigning to succeed Scott as governor in next month´s elections, suspended his campaign and returned to the state capital to oversee storm preparations.
"Unfortunately, it looks like it's coming directly at us and all you can do is prepare", he said.
In Pender County, officials are encouraging residents and businesses that suffered roof damage from Hurricane Florence to secure structures with tarps ahead of the storm. Hurricane-force winds extended outward up to 30 miles from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extended outward up to 175 miles. It's forecast to become a major hurricane sometime Tuesday and should make landfall Wednesday afternoon or evening, likely between Pensacola in the far western Panhandle and Apalachicola, directly south of Tallahassee on the coast.
Hurricane Michael will cross interior portions of Eastern North Carolina (S. of Oregon Inlet to Cape Hatteras) late Thursday through Friday morning.
Michael was lashing western Cuba on Monday with heavy rains and strong winds. "There's nothing between us and this storm but warm water and I think that's what terrifies us about the potential impacts".
Gov. Rick Scott on Monday called Hurricane Michael a "monstrous" and potentially "deadly" storm that is barreling toward Florida.