Hurricane Michael is expected to make landfall Wednesday afternoon directly hitting Florida's Panhandle, gaining strength at what is now a Category 4 storm with 145 mph winds.
Furthermore, the National Weather Service warned early Wednesday that the storm was "extremely dangerous," with "life-threatening storm surge." The current hurricane path has Michael hitting Georgia next, but quickly expected to lose steam and possibly fall to a Category 1 by that time.
And while thousands of residents in Florida have been and continue to prepare to evacuate or brace for the storm, many others are wondering what to do with their beloved animals.
"GMA" spoke to Sára Varsa, vice president of the Animal Rescue Team at the Humane Society of the United States, about what pet owners can do to help keep their furry buddies safe during emergency situations like this.
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WARNING: FL, AL, GA, SC, & NC RESIDENTS, #HurricaneMichael is headed your way. Please make sure you and your pets are prepared and have a plan in place to ensure both your and their safety?? ? ? ? Not in the path of the #hurricane? It's still a good time to make sure you've got an emergency plan so that you and your pets are prepared when disaster strikes! Check out our #disasterpreparedness tips by visiting the link in our bio.
If it's not safe for you, it's not safe for your pet.
That's the main takeaway here, Varsa said. So, as you plan and prepare, always keep that in mind, whatever you might need as you are displaced or as you hunker down during the storm, your animal needs, too.
If you can, bring your pet with you when evacuating.
Definitely adhere to all the evacuation orders that you are being told, depending on what state and area you live in.
But also make all attempts to not leave these beloved animals behind. You should have started planning earlier this summer, but, if not, start planning now and include them in your family's evacuation plan of action.
This means also calling ahead to hotels and shelters to make sure they take pets. If they do not accept pets, try calling a friend or relative out of your coverage area and see if they will house you and/or your animal. Also, try a local vet if this doesn't work.
All pet owners should make sure their animal has some sort of identification like a collar with ID tags.
If you have time now or even for other impending storms, getting your animal microchipped is also a good idea.
With smartphones, it's great to have a photo of your animal and even better if you are in that photo as proof of ownership, Varsa said.
Put together a pet supplies kit, as you would for yourself or your children.
And this kit should be able to care for your animal for a minimum of five to seven days, she says.
This should include things like medications, leashes, carriers, food, potable water, and water bowls, toys, and beds, veterinarian contact information, litter, small carriers for dogs and more.
Also, if you expect to lose electricity, cleaning your animal is important, so disinfectant clothes and wipes are also good to have, at least a week's supply worth for your animal.
The safest place for your animal is with you.
You don't want your animal loose during or after the storm. (We'll talk about larger animals like horses later here.)
If you do not evacuate, make sure to bring your pets inside with you and keep them on a leash or in a carrier at all times.
Tethering an animal outside is literally a death sentence, so never do this, whether you stay at your home or evacuate, Varsa said.
For cats, make sure small spaces in the home are covered, so they don't go run and hide during the storm, where you can't reach them.
After the storm, don't let your animal roam loose, so they don't get lost or injured.
There might be debris on the floor such as nails, and you don't want them stepping on that.
Also, be patient with your pets after a disaster and expect them to be disoriented if there is damage to your home or the yard.
Check the yard and make sure again to keep them close, so they don't run off.
Larger animals need to have a plan, too.
This includes horses, pigs, and other livestock.
If you can evacuate with them or bring them to a safer farm, you should absolutely do so. Try to get them to higher ground if flooding is expected.
When putting together a kit of food and water for them, buy gallons. Remember, this is crucial for their survival.
As for tagging your animals, be gentle, but you can get creative like painting your name and number on the side of a horse with paint that's not toxic and chemical-free.
If you can't evacuate your large animal, in this case, do not lock them up in a confined space. Let them roam somewhere that's considered somewhat free so if there's major destruction and flooding and you can't get to them, they can hopefully escape to shelter.