DC watches and prepares as Hurricane Michael makes landfall in Florida

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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) -- The president declares a federal disaster as experts describe Hurricane Michael as deadly and unprecedented.

Washington Correspondent Kyle Midura has more on those watching and leading from the nation’s capital.

For those in the path of Hurricane Michael’s destruction, it’s too late to get out.

Tuesday night, 4,000 people stayed in 70 Red Cross evacuation shelters in Florida and Alabama.

"If you failed to heed a warning for any reason, your goal should be to elevate, as high as you can and get into a facility that you think can withstand the winds at this point and hope for the best," said Brock Long, FEMA administrator.

The director for the Federal Emergency Management Administration says their top priority is saving lives, then they’ll concentrate on stabilizing lifelines: power, roads, and communication channels.

"You always have the option of calling 9-1-1, but there’s no guarantee that responders can get to you at this point," said Long.

Some are expected to be without power for weeks.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., says his biggest immediate concern is flooding from storm surge.

"It’s going to push the Gulf of Mexico inland, at 10-12 feet in the worst places, and if you’re in a low-lying area that floods, you’re not going to survive that," said Rubio.

We asked both Rubio and Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla, whether a response equivalent to those in Puerto Rico and North Carolina would be adequate for Florida.

"To be determined," said Nelson.

Both said FEMA has the resources it needs, and lawmakers may make more available for long-term recovery.

"This is not the time for politics, this is the time to save life and property," said Nelson.

FEMA administrators say they could use help from Capitol Hill.

"One thing that would help is getting my deputy confirmed, it’d be nice to go through a hurricane with a deputy director," said Long.

But they insist their nearly 3,000 crews are up to the job.

FEMA and Red Cross spokespeople suggest you download their apps as additional tools to keep up with the storm.

Experts also suggest texting rather than calling friends and family – as the phonelines may be overwhelmed.