Forecasters are warning that the up to four metres of storm surge caused by a still-growing hurricane Michael could cause catastrophic damage well inland once the storm makes landfall in Florida today.
Now at Category 4 status, the storm is so powerful it is expected to remain a hurricane as it moves over central Georgia early Thursday, and unleash damaging winds all the way into the Carolinas.
The U-S National Hurricane Center says no Category 4 hurricane has ever hit the Florida panhandle in recorded history going back to 1851.
A former president of the American Meteorological Society calls Michael a “life-altering event.”
Florida officials said roughly 375-thousand people up and down the Gulf Coast had been urged or ordered to leave, although not everyone is doing so.
Authorities have warned those staying behind that first responders will not be able to get to them during or immediately after Michael comes ashore.