Hurricane Michael could produce three life-threatening hazards along portions of the northeastern Gulf Coast.
Some parts of Florida could see storm surges of nine to 13ft and up to a foot of rain.
The hurricane is expected to be the most powerful storm to strike the southern U.S. state's panhandle in at least a decade. But despite that, Michael has the potential to become a major hurricane, possibly a Category 3.
Michael is the 13th named storm of the 2018 hurricane season and the seventh hurricane. "Hopefully we will have no one hurt and no loss of life", Ziffer added.
If the National Hurricane Center wind forecast for Michael verifies, landfalling winds of 125mph would tie the hurricane with 1975's Eloise and an 1882 Pensacola hurricane for the most intense storms to strike the Panhandle on record. Michael is forecast to retain at least tropical storm strength as it crosses Georgia and the Carolinas, so Michael's overall wind swath could be broad. A storm surge watch is in effect for the Anclote River to Anna Maria Island, including Tampa Bay, and for the Alabama-Florida border to the Okaloosa-Walton County line.
The storm rotates due to the spin of the earth and energy from the warm ocean increases wind speeds as it builds.
As of late Tuesday, storm trackers were still seeing signs of Michael intensifying. He said tolls were being suspended in the state's northwest region to ease the evacuation process, and the Florida Highway Patrol is sending almost 350 state troopers to the Panhandle and Big Bend areas. He said Tuesday that he doesn't expect he'll get resupplied soon, because stations nearer to interstate highways will get priority. That's when Maryland could see the first remnants of the storm.
"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", Morgan said.
Michael also could dump up to a foot of rain over some Panhandle communities before it sweeps through the Southeast and goes out to sea over the next few days.
In Florida, nearly three dozen shelters opened or were prepared to open as the storm neared.
The storm was located about 30 miles (48 kilometers) northwest of Cuba's western tip and 520 miles (837 kilometers) south of Apalachicola, Florida.
By late Tuesday, Michael was causing major disruptions to USA oil and gas production as it churned north, gathering greater strength over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey issued a statewide state of emergency, saying on Twitter it was "in anticipation of wide-spread power outages, wind damage and debris produced by high winds & heavy rain associated with #HurricaneMichael".
When asked if Maul remained concerned about local efforts Tuesday afternoon, Division of Emergency Management spokesman Alberto Moscoso said: "Director Maul will continue to stress the need for urgency from county officials who are in charge of evacuations and sheltering operations". The sheriff's office says Michael "has the potential to be a historic storm - please take heed".
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