Hurricane Michael made landfall on the coast of the Florida Panhandle Wednesday.
It's approaching southeastern Alabama and southwest Georgia, with 125 mile per hour winds, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Michael made landfall as a Category 4 storm near Mexico Beach, Florida on Wednesday with 155 mile-per-hour winds, just shy of a Category 5 storm, the strongest possible hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale. Michael was later downgraded to a Category 3 storm as it moved more inland toward Georgia and Alabama.
More than 2.1 million residents of at least 20 Florida counties were under mandatory or voluntary evacuation orders. Much of this part of Florida is rural areas known for small tourist cities, beaches, wildlife reserves and Tallahassee, the state capital.
"Hurricane Michael is forecast to be the most destructive hurricane to hit the Florida Panhandle in a century," Governor Rick Scott told reporters, speaking about seven hours before Michael was expected to make landfall.
Earlier, Scott said on Twitter that it was too late to evacuate the target zone and that people who had stayed should immediately seek refuge.
"This happened so quickly, we weren't exactly prepared," said Port St. Joe Mayor Bo Patterson to Reuters.
"It feels like you don't know when the next tree is going to fall on top of you because its blowing so ferociously," Patterson said. "You just don't know when the next one is going down. It's very, very scary. We have trees being uprooted, heavy, heavy rain."
Some of the storm's most significant early impact was to offshore energy production. U.S. producers in the Gulf cut oil production by about 40 percent and natural gas output by 28 percent on Tuesday, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement said.
President Donald Trump declared a state of emergency for the entire state of Florida, freeing up federal assistance to supplement state and local disaster responses.
Apalachicola Mayor Van Johnson said the city, which could suffer some of the worst of the storm surge, was under mandatory evacuation orders.
"My greatest concern is that some people are just now starting to take this storm seriously and are evacuating," he told CNN. And I just hope the others that have not made that decision get out while the roads are still passable and before the bridges close."