Michael slammed North Florida with 155 miles per hour winds just shy of Category 5 strength sent up to 10 feet of storm surge into coastal areas and damaged and demolished homes and businesses across the Panhandle.
A fast and furious Hurricane Michael is speeding toward the Florida Panhandle with 120 miles per hour winds and a potential storm surge of 13 feet, giving tens of thousands of people precious little time to get out or board up.
"Gale- to storm-force winds are expected over portions of the Mid-Atlantic coast as Michael exits the US east coast and becomes post-tropical", the National Hurricane Center said late Thursday.
"It was so scary you'd poo yourself", said retiree Tom Garcia, 60, who was trapped inside his Mexico Beach home as water poured in to waist height.
"The combination of a unsafe storm surge and the tide will cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded by rising waters moving inland from the shoreline". The destruction in this and other communities dotting the white-sand beaches is being called catastrophic - and it will need billions of dollars to rebuild.
"All of my furniture was floating", said Ms Marquardt, 67.
The storm, which came ashore as a Category 4 on the five-step Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale, tore entire neighborhoods in the Panhandle apart, reducing homes and businesses to piles of wood and siding, damaging roads and leaving scenes of devastation.
Mr Scott is also keen to avoid problems caused by Hurricane Irma just over a year ago when a lack of workers left many local shelters under-staffed. Florence dumped trillions of gallons of water on North and SC.
Tyndall Air Force Base, located 12 miles east of Panama City, suffered "serve damage to the base infrastructure", the Air Force said.
Downed power lines lay almost everywhere. One man, Steven Sweet, died when a tree fell on a home near Greensboro, Florida. We thought the windows were going to break at any time.
State officials said 285 people in Mexico Beach had refused to leave ahead of the hurricane despite a mandatory evacuation order.
"So many lives have been changed forever".
"This morning, Florida's Gulf Coast and Panhandle and the Big Bend are waking up to unimaginable destruction", Gov. Rick Scott said.
Hurricane Michael hammered the Florida Panhandle Wednesday as a Category 4 hurricane before it pushed inland through Georgia and into the Carolinas as a tropical storm.
An 11-year-old girl was killed near Lake Seminole, Georgia, when a metal carport used for boats was picked up by wind, crashed through the roof of a house and struck her in the head, said Travis Brooks, director of emergency management for Seminole County.
The full extent of Michael's fury was only slowly becoming clear, with some of the hardest-hit areas difficult to reach with roads blocked by debris or water. "Historically, hurricanes that approach the Florida coast in this area tend to weaken slightly prior to landfall, but little difference in impact related to wind and storm surge is likely regardless", Kottlowski said. Nine people had to be rescued by helicopter from a bathroom of a home in hard-hit Panama City after their roof collapsed, Petty Officer 3rd Class Ronald Hodges said.
National Guard troops made their way into the ground-zero town and found 20 survivors initially on Wednesday night, and more rescue crews are arriving, but the fate of many residents was unknown. But the fast-moving, fast-strengthening storm didn't give people much time to prepare, and emergency authorities lamented that many ignored the warnings and seemed to think they could ride it out.
He said: "My expectation is if you are a health care facility you have a responsibility to take care of those patients".