Hurricane Michael intensified yet again Wednesday morning after turning into an extremely dangerous Category 4 storm overnight. It made landfall at Tyndall Air Force Base right before 1:30 pm, strengthening all morning before finally crashing into the Florida Panhandle near Panama City with 155-mile-per-hour winds.
Some weather forecasters say it is the most powerful hurricane to hit the US mainland in almost 50 years.
Forecasters are predicting one of the worst storms in the region's history, and states of emergency have been declared in Florida, Alabama, and Georgia.
"This is the worst storm to ever strike the Florida Panhandle. Hands down," says WeatherBELL meteorologist Joe Bastardi. "It's going to beat Opal, gonna blow away Dennis from 2005 and it's one of only a handful of storms in the past 30 years that's hitting as intense has it has been."
"Do not underestimate the power of this storm. This will be devastating," Florida Gov. Rick Scott warned residents in the lead-up to the storm.
Hurricane Michael is threatening storm surge up to 14 feet and sustained winds of 155 miles per hour.
Roughly 375,000 people up and down the Gulf Coast have been urged or ordered to evacuate ahead of life-threatening storm surge, hurricane force winds, and heavy rainfall.
"Remember we can rebuild your house, we cannot rebuild your life. Think about your kids, your grandkids, all your family members, take care of them, take this seriously and keep your family safe," Gov. Scott said.
Some are heeding the warning and heading to shelters.
"Understanding that this storm may be a little more intense than the others so I think it's a good idea if people are concerned that they have an option, come here or some of the other shelters," said Florida resident Gloria Ford.
According to the governor's office, there are currently 54 shelters open housing almost 6,700 people. Visit https://www.floridadisaster.org/shelter-status/ to find out about information on shelters in your area. The site is being updated as more shelters open.
Others plan to ride out the storm. Panama City Beach resident Don Walton said, "We're hunkered down, where we need to be. We're well prepared. We understand the severity, and we'd be good to go.
State authorities are reminding people if there are storm impacts in your area, do not get on the road. Shelter in place.
The Florida National Guard is performing a variety of missions, including staffing 12 shelters, preparing 30 Points of Distribution (PODs), running two Logistics Staging Areas (LSAs) in Tallahassee and Eglin and staffing the State Logistics Readiness Center (SLRC) in Orlando.
Roads and bridges in the impacted areas are closing. Please visit fl511.com for the latest information.
While Michael will weaken as it moves across the southeastern United States, its heavy rains and flooding effects will spread far and wide. It's expected to dump lots of rain on the Carolinas, still struggling to recover from Hurricane Florence.
"The problem in the Carolinas, this is the kind of storm that will knock down trees and power lines, in areas that they just put it back up. But there's going to be a swath of three to six, locally 12-inch rains in the areas that Florence hit and those rivers aren't back in their banks yet in a lot of cases so that's going to aggravate flood problems," Bastardi says.
Tropical storm watches are in effect in coastal areas of Mississippi, Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina.
President Trump has declared a state of emergency in Florida, authorizing FEMA to coordinate relief efforts and provide federal money and help.
At Governor Scott’s direction, Volunteer Florida has activated the Florida Disaster Fund, the State of Florida’s official private fund established to assist Florida’s communities as they respond to and recover during times of emergency or disaster. In partnership with the public sector, private sector and other non-governmental organizations, the Florida Disaster Fund supports response and recovery activities. To donate, visit www.volunteerflorida.org/donatefdf/
Follow continuing coverage of Hurricane Michael with CBN News Reporter Caitlin Burke LIVE on the scene in Florida in the coming hours.