Hurricane Michael grew into a major Category 4 storm as it continued to plow through the Gulf of Mexico towards a potentially catastrophic landfall along the Florida Panhandle, where tens of thousands of people were scrambling to flee its deadly path. With maximum sustained winds climbing to 120mph (190km/h) by its arrival on Wednesday, according to the National Hurricane Centre (NHC) in Miami, Governor Rick Scott said Michael was expected to be “the most destructive storm to hit the Florida Panhandle in decades”.

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