Follow CBSMIAMI.COM: Facebook | Twitter

MIAMI (CBSMiami/NSF) – Hurricane Michael is expected to impact 30 million people in the southeast over the next several days, even as it eventually weakens.

In the Florida Panhandle, more than 17-thousand people have heeded mandatory evacuation orders.

Wednesday morning, Gulf Power reported about 5,000 customers had lost power.

Utility crews from Gulf Power, Duke Energy Florida, Florida Power & Light, and public utilities have lined up more than 19,000 workers from their own crews and through mutual-aid agreements with companies across the South and Midwest. Duke said Tuesday night, it expected 100,000 to 200,000 customers to lose power.

Fifty-four shelters were open across the Panhandle and Big Bend, housing nearly 6,000 people as of 9 a.m. Wednesday, according to the state Division of Emergency Management.

Libby Busbee and her family lost their home in Biloxi, Mississippi during Hurricane Katrina. They now live in Bay County, Florida. They checked into a hotel in Panama City as Michael approached, Libby hopes they’re not forced to move again.

GALLERY: Damaged Caused By Hurricane Michael In Florida Panhandle

“I’m hoping my house is still there, even if it does get flooded because I have my animals and everything there. But when you live on the water, that’s what you got to deal with,” she said.

As the winds grew in intensity, bridges to the beaches were closed.

Due to the expected storm surge and flooding, Gov. Rick Scott said the state is ready to respond once the storm passes, with 3,500 members of the Florida National Guard activated and more than 1,000 state forestry and wildlife officers prepared for search-and-rescue operations.

Florida Emergency Management Director Wes Maul said the state is prepared to bring food and medical supplies into areas, as there will be “devastating impacts.”