Hurricane Michael is now an "extremely dangerous" Category 4 storm with maximum sustained winds of 130mph and could become even stronger before it makes landfall in Florida's Panhandle or Big Bend area on Wednesday, the National Hurricane Center warns. The center says devastating storm surges of up to 13 feet are expected to hit parts of Florida's Gulf Coast, and flash-flooding from heavy rains could hit as far north as Virginia, the Pensacola Journal reports. The storm will be the strongest to hit the US mainland so far this year, and could be the most devastating the Panhandle region has seen in decades, reports the New York Times. Tens of thousands have been ordered to evacuate amid emergency declarations in parts of Florida, Alabama, and Georgia.
"I guess it's the worst case scenario. I don't think anyone would have experienced this in the Panhandle," meteorologist Ryan Maue tells the AP. "This is going to have structure damaging winds along the coast and hurricane force winds inland." Officials say some 375,000 people along the Gulf Coast have been told to evacuate. The orders are mandatory in some places, though many people have apparently decided to stay put. Forecasters say that after it makes landfall in Florida on Wednesday afternoon, Michael is expected to move over Georgia and the Carolinas, dumping yet more rain on areas hit hard by Hurricane Florence before it moves offshore again Friday. (This county has told a Weather Channel meteorologist they don't want to see him.)