Transcript for 'Monstrous' Hurricane Michael strengthens as it nears Florida
They are bracing for a big one in Florida. Hurricane Michael strengthening overnight closing in on the Florida panhandle. It could be the strongest storm ever to hit that area. Florida all the way to north Carolina on alert. And take a look at Panama City beach. They're seeing the effects already and here's what Michael looks like from space spanning some 300 miles. It is a big one. It rose up quickly. This is what we know right now, hurricane Michael now a major category 4 storm. It is packing 140-mile-an-hour winds around 375,000 people across Florida have been asked to evacuate. Airports in the region are closed. "World news tonight" anchor David Muir and our team are spread out across the storm zone. Let's begin with David in Panama City beach. Good morning, David. Reporter: Robin, George, Michael, good morning to you. Hurricane Michael already proving to be historic this morning, in fact, the national weather service in nearby Tallahassee putting it this way this morning, it has never happened before. The Florida panhandle has never seen this category hurricane expected to slam ashore at 145 miles per hour. In fact, they're registering 30-foot waves out to sea already and the hurricane hunters I spoke to flying right through this storm said it this way, their biggest fear was that as it travels across the warm waters of the gulf there is simply nothing to knock it down and that's exactly what's happened this morning. Overnight monster storm Michael growing in strength now a category 4 hurricane with winds up to 140 miles per hour. Gearing up to be the strongest in the Florida panhandle's history. Inching closer to the coast with landfall expected early this afternoon. As the storm bears down on the panhandle residents are bracing for the worst with the winds still picking up speed. This monster storm's outer bands already dumping torrential rain on portions of the southeast. While hurricane Michael marches toward the Florida panhandle just miles to the south a glimpse of what this powerful hurricane might bring. The view from space, massive, you can see Michael now some 400 miles across. Watch as the waves batter this cruise ship in the gulf of Mexico, passengers aboard "The empress of the seas" braving treacherous conditions as it steers out of the storm's path. We battled 13 to 15-foot swells. Reporter: This morning Florida officials say hundreds of thousands of people have been asked to evacuate. If you don't follow the warnings from these officials, the storm could kill you. Reporter: With officials declaring a state of emergency in 26 Florida counties and across the state of Alabama. I spoke with hurricane hunters on the front lines watching this category 4 hurricane gain momentum from above. As you watch as the system travels over the warm waters of the gulf what's your biggest concern? It reminds me of some historical storms with the very warm waters of the eastern gulf of Mexico. I'm afraid that the forecast of continued intensification is really likely to occur. Reporter: That's why here in Florida this morning, residents are taking no chances. A last-minute sprint for those in the danger zone gearing up for the mass evacuate vac weighings throughout the region and for residents like Joan and Stan boarding up to ride it out at home is the only choice. I feel like you're safer if you stay put and batten down the hatches. I think it's more dangerous to be on the roads with all the traffic. It feels safer here. Which sounds crazy because it's a hear barreling tors us. Reporter: Many neighborhoods are hunkering down together preparing to help each other if they need to. We're all in this together. We're one giant family. Since we've all experienced this type of storm at some point. Several of the neighbors have boats ready in their yards and some heavy equipment just in case. Reporter: And just to put this hurricane in perspective this morning, they have dealt with hurricanes Opal back in '95, Dennis back in 2005. Those two hurricanes were category 3s so this is coming in as a 4. That has never happened before in this part of Florida. 145-mile-per-hour winds and I can tell you they just upped the forecast for potential storm surge right here in Panama City for up to 13 feet. It's going to be a very long 24 hours ahead here. It certainly will be and
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