'Hurricane of a century' bears down on Florida's Panhandle

Florida State adjusts athletic schedules because of Hurricane Michael

"If this trend continues overnight, people in the Florida Panhandle could wake up to having a Category 4 hurricane on their doorstep", senior NHC hurricane specialist Stacy Stewart said during a live webcast.

BP Plc and Exxon Mobil Corp on Monday began evacuating personnel from Gulf of Mexico oil and gas production platforms.

On the exposed coast of Florida's Big Bend, most of the waterfront homes in Keaton Beach stood vacant amid fears of a life-threatening storm surge in an area that hadn't seen a potentially catastrophic major hurricane in decades.

Scott, a Republican running for the U.S. Senate in November's congressional elections, declared a state of emergency in 35 Florida counties.

A NOAA satellite caught this view of Hurricane Michael approaching Florida. "SEEK REFUGE IMMEDIATELY", Florida Gov. Rick Scott tweeted, while the sheriff in Panama City's Bay County issued a shelter-in-place order before dawn.

Residents who are considering leaving are encouraged to do so as early as possible.

Michael will make landfall on Wednesday, likely a little further down the coast around Panama City Beach, a family-friendly resort town edged by white-sand beaches and dotted with hotel towers, mini-golf courses and oyster restaurants.

Florida State adjusts athletic schedules because of Hurricane Michael
Hurricane Michael Strengthens to 'Extremely Dangerous' Category 4 as It Heads to Florida

"We basically just walked away from everything and said goodbye to it", he said, tears welling up.

Heavy rains are forecast for the Carolinas, which were drenched by Hurricane Florence last month. Floodwaters from Florence destroyed two of the church's buildings and gutted three others.

President Donald Trump declared a state of emergency for the entire state of Florida, freeing up federal assistance to supplement state and local disaster responses.

Scott said that he's called up 2,500 members of the National Guard to assist, and has more than 1,000 rescuers at the ready.

Florida State University said its campuses in Tallahassee and Panama City will be closed from Tuesday to Friday. USA producers in the Gulf cut oil production by about 40 percent and natural gas output by 28 percent on Tuesday, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement said. Some 17,000 utility restoration workers were also on call. Lines at gasoline stations grew as people left.

The last major hurricane, a storm of Category 3 or above, to hit the Panhandle was Dennis in 2005, according to hurricane center data.

The storm, which formed off the coast of northern Honduras, has already killed at least 13 people in Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador after torrential rains triggered flash-flooding and landslides in Central America over the weekend.

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