UPDATE: Hurricane Michael was upgraded to a category 3 storm Tuesday evening, on track to hit the Florida Panhandle on Wednesday as the most powerful hurricane to hit the mainland U.S. this year, The New York Times reported.
Hurricane Michael is rapidly approaching the Florida and Alabama coastlines and bringing plenty of potentially destructive rain and wind with it.
On Tuesday, the National Hurricane Center upgraded Michael to a category two storm, which comes with maximum sustained winds of 110 miles per hour. The storm’s new categorization means it can cause well-constructed frame homes to “sustain major roof and siding damage. Many shallowly rooted trees will be snapped or uprooted and block numerous roads. Near-total power loss is expected with outages that could last from several days to weeks,” according to the NHC.
But it isn’t done yet. According to the Associated Press, a hurricane hunter plane flew into the storm Tuesday morning and found the storm was rapidly intensifying, which mean winds could push the storm into a category three before it makes landfall sometime on Wednesday.
"Hurricane Michael is a monster storm and it keeps getting more dangerous. We're 12 hours away from seeing impacts," Florida Gov. Rick Scott said during a news conference on Tuesday morning. "The time to prepare is now."
Because of the storm’s potential power, mandatory evacuation orders are already underway for an estimated 12,000 people, including those living in Panama City Beach and other low-lying parts of the coast. The AP reported parts of Florida’s lightly populated Big Bend area could see up to 12 feet (3.7 meters) of storm surge. Other Panhandle communities could see up to one foot of rain. Should surges of water like that hit and people do not evacuate, Scott warned, “no one's going to survive."
Florida panhandle residents prep for Hurricane Michael TALLAHASSEE, FL – OCTOBER 08: Drivers line up for gasoline as Hurricane Michael bears down on the northern Gulf coast of Florida on October 8, 2018 in Tallahassee, Florida. Michael was forecast to become a Category 3 storm with sustained winds of 120 mph when it makes landfall in the Florida panhandle later this week. | Credit: Mark Wallheiser/Getty Images
“People need to start leaving now,” sheriff Tommy Ford told an emergency meeting Monday night, according to the AP. He added that people will “not be dragged out of their homes,” but if they choose to stay they will be doing so at their own peril.
“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,” Escambia county sheriff David Morgan said in a statement.
Again, if this wasn’t made clear enough this storm is coming and you need to get out of its way.
“Today it is about life and safety,” Tallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum said. “There’s nothing between us and this storm but warm water’ and I think that’s what terrifies us about the potential impacts.”
For more tips on how to prepare for this hurricane and any others that may come this season, check out all of Travel + Leisure’s advice here.