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HURRICANE Michael has today been upgraded to a Category 4 storm with residents in Florida warned of deadly floods and 145mph winds.

The National Hurricane Centre today described it as "extremely dangerous" amid fears it could be the strongest to hit the region since records began.

The "monstrous" storm is tipped to make landfall later today with experts now warning of devastating winds topping 130mph.

Should it retain its current strength when it reaches the coastline, it would be the strongest hurricane to ever hit the Florida Panhandle since records began in 1851, according to Weather.com.

The National Weather Service in Tallahassee, Florida, warned: "A potentially catastrophic event is developing. Locations may be uninhabitable for weeks or months."

Florida Governor Rick Scott tweeted: "Hurricane Michael will be here TONIGHT. This is your LAST CHANCE to get prepared for this monstrous and deadly storm. The state is not taking this storm lightly and neither should any family."

Senator Bill Nelson said a "wall of water" could cause major destruction along vulnerable areas of the Panhandle.

"Don't think that you can ride this out if you're in a low-lying area," he said on CNN.

Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan bluntly advised those residents choosing stay that rescuers won't be able to reach them.

"If you decide to stay in your home and a tree falls on your house or the storm surge catches you and you're now calling for help, there's no one that can respond to help you," he said.

Weather experts sent out similar grim warnings with National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham saying: "If they tell you to leave, you have to leave."

Thousands have been warned to evacuate along Florida's coast, where schools and state offices are to remain shut this week.

Jason McDonald, of Panama City was driving with his wife and two young children, aged five and seven, to North Alabama.

He said: "We don't know if it's going to wipe out our house or not.

"We've got supplies to last us a week. Plenty of water. I made sure we've got clean clothes. We got everything tied down."

One county in Florida cannot open their shelters because they can only withstand a Category 2 hurricane.

Shelters in Wakulla County is unable to provide protection for the residents that have been ordered to leave.

Residents were being taken by van to the neighbouring Leon County.

More than 300 miles of coastline are currently under threat, the National Weather Service has said.

Some regions of the US may see 12in (30cm) of rain, and storm surges of up to 13ft (3.6m).

At least 13 people have already been reported killed in Central America as a result of the massive storm.

Hurricane Michael latest updates:

Hurricane Michael path tracker:

Hurricane Michael upgraded in danger category:

Mass evacuations:

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