Residents Prepare to Evacuate as Hurricane Michael Heads Toward Florida Panhandle

'Potentially catastrophic' Hurricane Michael strengthens to Category 2, targets Florida

Michael is now centered about 360 miles south of Panama City, Florida, and landfall is likely to occur sometime around midday Wednesday between the Florida Panhandle and the state's Big Bend.

Maximum sustained winds have increased to near 75 miles per hour with higher gusts, the National Hurricane Center said.

Hurricane Michael is churning in the Gulf of Mexico and is anticipated to make landfall as a major storm today before heading north and east into the Carolinas.

Hurricane Michael, a Category 1 storm, has been gaining strength as it moves through the Gulf of Mexico threatening Cuba and Florida.

NHC Director Ken Graham said Michael represented a "textbook case" of a hurricane system growing stronger as it drew near shore, in contrast to Hurricane Florence, which struck North Carolina last month after weakening in a slow, halting approach.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency had numerous teams deployed and ready to respond, said FEMA spokesman Jeff Byard. The hurricane warning also covers southwestern Georgia, including Albany. "My greatest concern is not having electricity, and living on a fixed income, losing my food".

In a 5 p.m. update on October 9, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said Michael has strengthened to a "major hurricane" and has life-threatening storm surge, hurricane-force winds, and heavy rainfall.

"If you don't follow warnings from officials this storm could kill you", said Scott, a Republican running for the U.S. Senate in November's congressional elections.

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A hurricane warning was in effect for a more than 300-mile (480-km) stretch of coastline from the Florida-Alabama border to the Suwannee River in Florida.

The Gulf of Mexico produces 17 percent of daily US crude oil output and 5 percent of daily natural gas output, according to the US Energy Information Administration.

Some Panama City residents were seen on the beach enjoying the cool breeze ahead of the storm, while others were loading up cars with luggage and visitors were checking out of hotels. In Georgia, Gov. Nathan Deal declared a preemptive state of emergency for 92 counties.

As of 5 a.m. ET on October 9, Michael's center was about 420 miles south of Panama City, Florida and 390 miles south of Apalachicola, Florida.

In Panhandle counties, most state offices, schools and universities were closed for the rest of the week. Lines at gasoline stations grew as people left.

Locally, Michael will likely lead to some flash flooding, minor river flooding, downed trees, and power outages.

Michael is expected to be the first major hurricane (Category 3 or above) to strike the Florida Panhandle since Hurricane Dennis in 2005.

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