Oct. 9 (UPI) -- Floridians on the northwestern coastline are in a mad rush to buy generators, gasoline and water before Hurricane Michael arrives Wednesday.
The Category 2 storm is strengthening in the Gulf of Mexico and is forecast to become a Category 3 hurricane by the time it hits the Florida Panhandle. Numerous preparations are being made ahead of the storm.
Several stores have run out of generators, but are expected to get more deliveries.
Pensacola International Airport will close at midnight Tuesday and remain closed until further notice. Also, several airlines have waived change fees for travel in areas affected by Hurricane Michael, meaning air travelers can change their flight at no cost. Delta Air Lines capped air fares and Southwest passengers can change flights without paying the difference.
Morgan Barry, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said Floridians in the path of the hurricane have the rest of Tuesday to prepare by tying down loose items and clearing yards of debris.
"That [wind level] could bring trees [down], especially with the rain bands soaking the ground, so that could be an issue and there's still the high surge across the area," Barry said.
The Gulf Islands National Seashore closed Tuesday in advance of the hurricane.
The coming storm has also prompted state officials to extend the deadline to register to vote. Originally, Tuesday was going to be the final day, but prospective voters now have until the day after whenever the office reopens.
Michael is on track to hit one of the poorest and most vulnerable areas of the region, with little coastal protection.
Mandatory evacuations are underway in Bay County, which includes Panama City, and Gulf and Franklin counties. The coastal areas of Destin and Panama City have dense clusters of beachfront homes, condominiums and hotels that are at risk from the storm surge.
Franklin County has one highway -- US 98 -- running east and west through it.
"Most of that is within 100 feet of the coast," Alan Pierce, a retired Franklin County administrator, said.
If a storm surge cuts that highway off, it would make recovery efforts difficult. The nearest detour is 30 miles away.