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'We Have a Pit in Our Stomachs': Warnings for Florida Grow as Category 4 Hurricane Michael Intensifies

"This is the real deal. Hurricanes that intensify overnight just before reaching land are the worst nightmare of forecasters and emergency managers."

A satellite image of Hurricane Michael on Wednesday morning ahead of landfall expected in the coming hours.

A satellite image of Hurricane Michael on Wednesday morning ahead of landfall expected in the coming hours. (Photo: MSFC/NASA)

As with many similar mega-storms in this age of climate change and extreme weather, an "ominous" Hurricane Michael is heading for  U.S. landfall on Wednesday alongside grave warnings of destruction with weather experts and government officials raising last-minute alarms for people to seek shelter or flee vulnerable areas before the storm hits.

The National Hurricane Center said the powerful storm—officially upgraded to a Category 4 hurricane overnight with sustained winds of up to 140 mph and gusts of 185 mph—is expected to move across the northeastern Gulf of Mexico before making landfall in the Panhandle region of Florida in the afternoon, and then sweep inland to the northeast.

"We have a pit in our stomachs," National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham said on Wednesday morning discussing the storm's approach on the Weather Channel.

"Hurricane Michael is a monstrous storm. The forecast keeps getting more dangerous," said Republican Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday as he urged all residents in the storm's path to evacuate or seek safe shelter.

Outside experts and meteorologists added their concerns over the strength of the storm, especially as it gathered power ahead of landfall:

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