See Hurricane Michael from Space in These Satellite Images

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Everything now points to the Category 2 hurricane reaching the coast after churning northward from the Caribbean Sea through very warm Gulf of Mexico waters, then curving rapidly to the northeast at the southwest corner of Georgia.

Michael was packing sustained winds of up to 85 miles per hour (140 kph) and gaining strength as it skirted past Cuba's western tip en route to a likely Wednesday landfall as the most powerful storm to strike the Florida Panhandle in at least a decade.

The forecast for Hurricane Michael changed little overnight with the National Hurricane Center having it make landfall between Fort Walton Beach and the Big Bend region tomorrow. It developed into a hurricane on Monday, and by today, more than 180,000 people were under mandatory evacuation orders.

Jason McDonald, a resident of Panama City said he and his wife were going to drive north into Alabama with their two young children.

"You haven't got anywhere to go (if the bridges close)", he said Tuesday morning.

As of the 8 a.m. advisory, Michael was 395 miles south of Panama City, moving north-northwest at 12 mph.

The National Hurricane Center predicted Tuesday that tropical-storm-force winds would probably arrive on the southern coast early Wednesday morning.

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"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. Bill Nelson, said a "wall of water" could cause major destruction along the Panhandle.

"Dont think that you can ride this out if youre in a low-lying area", Nelson said on CNN.

But some officials were anxious by what they weren't seeing - a rush of evacuees.

Bay County sheriff Tommy Ford said: "I am not seeing the level of traffic on the roadways that I would expect when we've called for the evacuation of 75% of this county".

Many are located in the coastal town of Port St. Joe, the county's largest municipality, lying directly in the hurricane's projected path, she said.

"Y'all, I just don't know what to say anymore".

The Orlando area will get plenty of rain and windy conditions, however. "But in my experience, it's always blown way out of proportion". The worst storm surge is expected between Mexico Beach and Keaton Beach, where nine to 13 feet of inundation is possible, forecasters warned.

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"If this trend continues overnight, people in the Florida Panhandle could wake up to having a Category 4 hurricane on their doorstep", senior NHC hurricane specialist Stacy Stewart said during a live webcast.

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, Florida's Democratic nominee for governor, had planned to campaign in South Florida on Monday and Tuesday, but instead threw himself into helping his city's residents fill sandbags and make other preparations. Forecasters predict the storm will bring torrential rains and winds of upwards of 120 miles per hour.

Forecasters warned that Michael could ultimately dump a foot (30 centimeters) of rain in western Cuba, triggering flash floods and mudslides in mountain areas.

The Florida Panhandle and Big Bend areas in addition to southern portions of Alabama and Georgia are expected to receive as much as 12 inches of rain through Friday.

"If you decide to stay in your home and a tree falls on your house or the storm surge catches you and you're now calling for help, there's no one that can respond to help you", Morgan said at a news conference.

Experts predict that Hurricane Michael could pose a similar threat, with storm surge and inland flooding from intense rainfall ultimately responsible for most of the damage and death. But Michael will also have implications further away.

By Monday evening, lines had formed at gas stations and grocery stories as people sought emergency supplies even as the anticipated evacuations would be intensifying in coming hours.

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