Hurricane Dennis carries a threat of more than a half-foot of rain plus waves and storm surge up to 19 feet in the same area that was pummeled by Ivan in September.
Dennis has maximum sustained winds of 145 miles-per-hour. The storm is a Category Four hurricane.
Dennis' expected landfall this afternoon would be the earliest a Category Four hurricane has hit the United States since Hurricane
Audrey struck the Louisiana and Texas coasts in June 1957.
Max Mayfield, the director of the National Hurricane Center, says a Category Four storm is "much worse" than a Category Three.
Mayfield says the "damage increases exponentially as the wind speed increases." He says the storm will have a significant impact on areas well away from its center.
At 4 am Central Time, Dennis' eye was 170 miles south of Panama City in the Panhandle and 245 miles southeast of Biloxi, Miss. It is moving north-northwest at about 15 miles-per-hour and is expected to turn more to the north before landfall.