Hurricane Michael evacuation: Florida declares emergency - Scott activates national guard

WATCH Hurricane Michael hits Cuba and Mexico on its way to U.S

"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", Escambia county sheriff David Morgan said in a statement.

Michael threatens to become the most the most intense hurricane to hit the Florida panhandle since 1851, according to Philip Klotzbach, a meteorologist at Colorado State University.

Governor Scott warned in a news conference that Hurricane Michael is a "massive storm that could bring total devastation to parts of our state, especially in the panhandle". The areas from Chassahowitzka to Anna Maria Island and between the Alabama-Florida border and the Okaloosa-Walton county line could see 2 feet to 4 feet of storm surge. "We have done everything we can as far as getting the word out", Smith said.

Florida officials said roughly 375,000 people up and down the Gulf Coast had been urged or ordered to evacuate. "Hopefully more people will leave". He said Tampa Bay could experience up to six feet of storm surge and heavy winds.

"I know it's going to cover everything around here", Sadousky said Tuesday, eyeing water lapping at the edge of a canal behind his home.

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As of 5 p.m. EDT, Michael was 295 miles (470 kilometers) south of Panama City, speeding northward at 12 mph (19 kph). "This might be really bad and serious".

In Escambia County, on the western edge of the Panhandle, evacuations began in Pensacola Beach and other vulnerable areas, but not in Pensacola itself, a city of about 54,000.

The storm was forecast to move through the southeastern United States on Wednesday and Thursday, passing through Georgia and the Carolinas, which are still recovering from Hurricane Florence last month.

"I know people are tired from Florence, but don't let this storm catch you with your guard down", North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said, adding, "A number of homes have rooftop tarps that could be damaged or blown away with this wind".

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