Michael was moving north at 12 miles per hour.
Michael would be just the fourth major hurricane - Category 3, 4 or 5 - to make landfall in the Florida Panhandle since 1950, joining Eloise (1975), Opal (1995) and Dennis (2005). Tropical-storm force winds extended 185 miles (295 kilometers) from the center, lashing the coast, and hurricane-force winds were coming closer, reaching 45 miles (75 kilometers) from the center. It warned of life-threatening storm surges, hurricane force winds and heavy rainfall.
Here's what to know about Hurricane Michael, the storm's path, when it's supposed to make landfall and just how unsafe it's expected to be.
Waves crash against the Malecon, triggered by the outer bands of Hurricane Michael, as tourists drive past in a classic American auto in Havana, Cuba, Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2018.
"Michael is likely to produce potentially catastrophic wind damage where the core of the hurricane moves onshore in the Florida Panhandle, and everyone in the hurricane warning area should prepare for life-threatening hurricane winds", the hurricane center said.
A tropical storm watch is in effect along the southeastern coast of the US from Fernandina Beach, FL, to South Santee River, SC, the Chassahowitzka River to Anna Maria Island in Florida, including Tampa Bay, and the Mississippi-Alabama border to the mouth of the Pearl River.
Producing heavy rainfall and strong winds, Michael is moving north-northwestward at 12 miles per hour.
As of 06.00 am, Michael was about 290 kilometers south of Panama City and moving north at 19 kph.
Michael underwent a period of "rapid intensification" on Sunday and Monday, its winds strengthening by more than 35 miles per hour. Most of the rain was blamed on a low-pressure system off the Pacific coast of El Salvador.
Michael wasn't quite done wreaking havoc in the Caribbean.
As outer rainbands from the storm began to lash the coast, the center said a monster storm surge of up to four meters is expected in some areas. Storm surges and subsequent flooding remain a major concern as governors across the region declare states of emergency and residents either flee or hunker down.
The National Weather Service out of Tallahassee has posted a map showing a projected landfall at 1pm EST on Wednesday, along with current imagery of the storm's path.
While most of the city has cleared out under Florida Governor Rick Scott's strict request, some residents have stayed behind.
"If you're responsible for a patient, you're responsible for the patient".
It's expected to bring significant flooding, a 12-foot storm surge and power outages.
Thomas said relatives in IL had urged him to leave and stay with them, but he didn't have a way to get so far north so quickly, and shelters aren't a good option in his view.
Wind shears are winds which impact the sides of a hurricane and can weaken or sometimes dissipate the storm.
"The greatest threat that Michael will pose for (the Charlotte) area now appears to be flash flooding", said the National Weather Service. Many filled sandbags and boarded up homes.
Fuel shortages were largely contained in advance of Michael's arrival, although the percent of gas stations with no fuel rose quickly as residents evacuated or made preparations to ride out the storm. Scott expanded the order on Monday to encompass 35 counties.
The storm's rapid intensification over the past two days, despite shifting winds, "defies traditional logic", according to hurricane forecasters.
High winds weren't the only danger.
After it makes landfall, the storm is predicted to pass into Georgia, where Gov. Nathan Deal on Tuesday issued a state of emergency covering 92 counties - almost the entire lower two-thirds of his state.
Maue and other meteorologists watched in real time as a new government satellite showed the hurricane's eye tightening, surrounded by lightning that lit it up "like a Christmas tree". Forecasters also warned spinoff tornadoes would also be a threat. It's moving at 12 miles per hour and picking up strength from really warm water - almost 100 degrees - in the Gulf of Mexico, Ricketts said.