Hurricane Michael has strengthened into a major Category 3 storm as it takes direct aim at the Florida Panhandle.
Forecasters expect Michael, with its top winds of 195 kilometers per hour, to make landfall along the Gulf Coast Wednesday morning.
Hurricane warnings have been issued for the Alabama-Florida border eastward. Tornadoes and as much as 30 centimeters of rain are expected in some areas.
Florida Governor Rick Scott is calling Michael a “monstrous hurricane,” warning that it could bring “total devastation” to parts of the state. He is urging residents not to ignore evacuation orders and to pay close attention to news reports.
Forecasters were warning the Panhandle and Big Bend areas could see storm surges of 2.5 to 4 meters.
President Donald Trump said federal emergency officials are standing by.
Forecasters said Michael is a fast-moving storm that will quickly weaken as it gets away from the warm Gulf waters and moves across land.
The storm Michael will drift into the Mid-Atlantic states and be back out to sea by Friday, according to forecasters.
Michael will strike the U.S. after having soaked parts of Central America and Cuba with heavy rains and floods, destroying homes and knocking out power.
At least 13 storm-related deaths have been reported in El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua.