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PANAMA CITY (CBSMiami) — The time to prepare in the Florida panhandle is over. Hurricane Michael is a category 4 storm lashing the coast with intense wind and rain and pushing a storm surge that could cause catastrophic damage well inland once it makes landfall.

A business owner in Panama City boarded up Tuesday and wrote “Just Beat It Michael” on his shutters in order to try and make people smile during a serious time.

“We want to be here for the business and we are getting situated, our house is hurricane safe. We’ve got a generator and we’ve got plenty of water,” said business owner Wendy Hamilton.

Hurricane Michael is now the most powerful hurricane in recorded history for the Florida panhandle.

The storm now appears so powerful that it is expected to remain a hurricane as it moves over central Georgia early Thursday, and unleash damaging winds all the way into the Carolinas. Rainfall could reach up to a foot and the life-threatening storm surge could swell to 14 feet.

“We are in new territory,” National Hurricane Center Meteorologist Dennis Feltgen wrote in a Facebook post Wednesday. “The historical record, going back to 1851, finds no Category 4 hurricane ever hitting the Florida panhandle.”

CLICK HERE TO TRACK HURRICANE MICHAEL

Florida officials said more than 375,000 people up and down the Gulf Coast had been urged or ordered to evacuate.

On Tuesday, a Tallahassee resident installed plywood on his home to protect it from the giant Oak trees that surround it.

“I wasn’t worried about it. I’ve been through the hurricanes before. My mother–We have a massive oak tree outside our house.

The sheriff in Panama City’s Bay County issued a shelter-in-place order before dawn Wednesday, and Florida Gov. Rick Scott tweeted that for people in the hurricane’s path, “the time to evacuate has come and gone … SEEK REFUGE IMMEDIATELY.”

Thirty-five Florida counties in all now have access to federal funding sources.  That’s because President Trump signed a pre-landful emergency declaration.

He told reporters Tuesday the country is ready to help.

FEMA says teams are already on the ground.

GALLERY: Damaged Caused By Hurricane Michael In Florida Panhandle

There are also 2,500 soldiers and airmen with the Florida National Guard who are ready to help. But while preparing for Hurricane Michael, a few residents have been running into problems.

Gas has been in short supply and some gas stations have had long wait times. Some others had trouble getting much needed items, like water. Store shelves in grocery stores are empty.

FAMU and neighboring FSU cancelled classes for the week.

“It’s certainly a lot quieter than it has been. Certainly a lot of people have decided to leave,” said FSU student Gabriel Perry.

But dorms and dining halls will remain open for students on both campuses.

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