Hurricane Michael continued to strengthen early Tuesday, with the possibility for it to be a Category 3 storm by landfall on Wednesday. Officials are already warning residents it could be the most destructive storm in the area in decades.
Residents in Hurricane Michael’s path were told to brace from “dangerous” winds, flash flooding and life-threatening storm surge this week.
The hurricane had maximum sustained winds of 90 mph at 5 a.m. Tuesday and was moving northwest at 12 mph. It should become a Category 2 storm — winds over 95 mph — by Tuesday midday and a Category 3 storm — with winds over 110 mph — by Tuesday night.
Landfall is forecast for around 1 p.m. Wednesday near Panama City, Florida, as a major hurricane with winds of 120 mph.
Florida Gov. Rick. Scott declared a state of emergency in 35 counties throughout the Sunshine State, while the National Weather Service issued warnings for dozens of cities near the Gulf coastline.
“Hurricane Michael is forecast to be the most destructive storm to hit the Florida Panhandle in decades,” Scott said at a press conference Monday evening. “Remember, this storm could grow stronger and be a Category 3 hitting our state. This storm will be life-threatening and extremely dangerous.”
Michael will stay as a tropical storm even as it moves through Georgia and into the Carolinas on Thursday.
A hurricane warning continues to be in effect for Tallahassee, Panama City, Apalachicola and Pensacola, Florida.
A tropical storm warning is in place for Mobile, Alabama, and into southwest Georgia, while Biloxi, Mississippi, southeast Georgia and southern South Carolina are under a tropical storm watch.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has mobilized resources from the federal government to assist with the preparation.
“#HurricaneMichael isn’t heading to any one town,” NWS tweeted Monday. “There are warnings for more than 300 miles of coastline. It’s forecast to be a large and dangerous hurricane at landfall.”
Forecasters with the National Hurricane Center said the areas near the Florida Panhandle and Big Bend would most-likely to see life-threatening storm surge. But parts of southern Georgia and southeast Alabama could see damaging winds as the hurricane moves inland.
The storm is forecast to move further inland later in the week, potentially bringing rain and heavy wind to portions of South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia.
ABC News’ Meghan Keneally contributed to this report.