Hurricane Michael turns into a terrifying skull in satellite image

A hotel employee in Wilmington shines a light in a dark hallway during Hurricane Florence while power outages across the region lasted for several days

The boardwalk in the resort town of Destin was almost deserted on Tuesday, the shops and adjoining restaurants closed less than 24 hours before Hurricane Michael was set to slam into this stretch of Florida's Gulf Coast famous for its white beaches. Byard said an estimated 500,000 people face evacuation orders and advisories in Florida, where residents and tourists were fleeing low-lying areas in at least 20 counties stretching along 200 miles (322 km) of shore in the Panhandle and adjacent Big Bend regions.

"Every family must be prepared". "We can rebuild your house, but we cannot rebuild your life". Michael was forecast to push through warm, relatively shallow Gulf of Mexico waters before moving inland over the northern Gulf coast of Florida.

Meteorologists watched in real time as a new government satellite showed the hurricane's eye tightening, surrounded by lightning that lit it up "like a Christmas tree".

Parts of western Cuba, which was hit by the storm on Monday, were forecast to receive up to a foot of rain.

"This rainfall could lead to life-threatening flash floods and mudslides", the NHC warned.

President Donald Trump told reporters on Tuesday: "We are very well prepared for the incoming hurricane".

"Can you believe it?"

At a Tallahassee hotel, Lou Bassett was trying to make the most of having his family's beach vacation in Cape San Blas abruptly curtailed as he unloaded sandy strollers and luggage from his vehicle while one of his sons looked on grumpily.

Residents in Florida and neighboring states have been told to leave their homes ahead of the devastating weather.

"We basically just walked away from everything and said goodbye to it", he said, tears welling up. "Today is the day to get a plan, because tomorrow could be too late".

In addition to the powerful winds, Michael is also bringing the threat of risky storm surge that could reach up to four meters in some places.

Georgia Governor Nathan Deal declared a state of emergency on Tuesday for 92 counties in his state. "You can not hide from storm surge", Florida Gov. Rick Scott warned at a news conference Tuesday.

The Carolinas are still recovering from Hurricane Florence, which left dozens dead and is estimated to have caused billions of dollars in damage last month.

The hurricane was set to make landfall later on Wednesday on Florida's Panhandle and could drive sea water levels as high as 14 feet (4.3 meters) above normal in some areas, the center said.

Wind shears are winds which impact the sides of a hurricane and can weaken or sometimes dissipate the storm.

At their most fearsome, these low-pressure weather fronts pack more power than the energy released by the atomic bomb that levelled Hiroshima.

Scientists have long warned that global warming will make cyclones more destructive, and some say the evidence for this may already be visible.

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