Its collision with the Florida coast so far has been stunning and violent.
At 8 a.m., Michael was centered about 90 miles (145 kilometers) southwest of Panama City, with tropical storm force winds already lashing the coast. Forecasters said it will unleash damaging wind and rain all the way into the Carolinas, still recovering from Hurricane Florence's epic flooding.
An extreme wind warning (EWW) is issued when a landfalling hurricane is expected to bring winds of 115 miles per hour, or above to a specific location.
Only three major hurricanes Category 3 or higher have struck the Panhandle since 1950: Eloise in 1975, Opal in 1995 and Dennis in 2005.
Waves crash along a pier from hurricane Michael, Oct. 10, 2018, in Panama City Beach, Fla. The storm is forecast to move toward the Florida Panhandle and move northeast through the USA on Wednesday and Thursday before moving off land and into the Atlantic on Friday. Evacuations spanned 22 counties from the Florida Panhandle into north central Florida.
A historic Hurricane Michael made landfall Wednesday near Mexico Beach, pulverizing homes, snapping trees and sending debris flying.
Some 120,000 residents were under mandatory evacuation orders in Bay County in the panhandle, a low-lying area of beachfront resorts and retirement communities.
Forming near the Yucatan Peninsula on Sunday and having first appeared on radars just a day prior, Hurricane Michael is now situated 80 miles south-southwest of Panama City, Florida, where it is set to make landfall, and is moving northward.
There are 57,000 homes at risk for potential storm-surge damage on Florida's Gulf Coast, with an estimated reconstruction-cost value of about $13.4 billion, according to CoreLogic, a real-estate-data company.
President Donald Trump approved a pre-landfall emergency declaration to provide federal money and help in Florida.
While a state of emergency has not been declared in Virginia or the Carolinas, authorities are preparing for effects from the hurricane. "Unsafe hurricane-force winds will also extend well inland across portions of the Florida Panhandle, southern Georgia, and southeast Alabama as Michael moves inland", the National Hurricane Center said on Wednesday morning. A sign at the restaurant located just across from the beach on Highway 30-A says it plans to "open as soon as the storm passes".
The Panhandle is looking at life-threatening storm surge that will be between 9 to 14 feet above ground from Panama City to the Aucilla River, and 4 to 9 feet in most other parts of the region associated with the storm's landfall.
"That means the water will come miles in shore and could easily be over the roofs of houses", Scott said. Tornadoes could spawn in the Southeast Wednesday into Thursday, forecasters said.
Heavy rainfall was projected for areas in the storm's path.
Storm surge is also inundating some areas along the Panhandle. He focused on islands off the coast whose bridges may close as the storm approaches. We've got as prepared as we can.
As if one risky cyclone wasn't enough, Hurricane Michael now threatens to unleash tornadoes during its rampage across the Southeast.
Nearby areas such as Western Cuba, Florida Panhandle and Big Ben have been told to expect flash flooding which could be life-threatening.