Michael's maximum sustained winds of 155 miles per hour at the time of landfall place it at fourth-strongest, behind only the three Category 5 hurricane landfalls in the continental United States: Labor Day (1935), Camille (1969) and Andrew (1992).
In Lafayette County, a shelter is open at the Lafayette High School cafeteria.
"My God, it's scary".
For the big tourist destinations of Panama City Beach, Destin and Fort Walton, it could be months before they are back on an even keel as the hurricane destroyed homes, businesses and resorts, uprooted thousands of trees, and tore down power lines across the region.
Jerry Nelson, born and raised outside Panama City, was stunned at the destruction.
After Michael left the Panhandle late Wednesday, Kaylee O'Brien was crying as she sorted through the remains of the apartment she shared with three roommates at Whispering Pines apartments, where the smell of broken pine trees was thick in the air.
Mike Thomas, the mayor of Panama City Beach, a resort west of Panama City, said he expected there would be casualties and that emergency personnel would not go out when winds get over 80km/h.
"Storm surge estimates are anywhere between nine and 14 feet".
"It feels like you don't know when the next tree is going to fall on top of you because it's blowing so ferociously", said Port St Joe Mayor Bo Patterson. You just want somebody to shake you and wake you up. It's very, very scary.
Despite authorities ordering mandatory evacuations ahead of the storm, many people were unable to leave their homes. "We had the inside windows kind of barricaded in with mattresses", Beu said.
The dire verdict is due in part to the extremely rapid strengthening of the storm, from Category 2 in the morning.
"We're in trouble. We're in bad trouble, Steven", said storm chaser Brett Adair, with LiveStorms Media, in a video that was being broadcast live on Facebook by NBC 15 in Mobile, Alabama.
Members of the Florida National Guard chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defense (CBRN) Enhanced Response Force Package prepare to help citizens in affected areas prior to landfall of Hurricane Michael at Camp Blanding Joint Training Center near Starke, Fla., on October 9, 2018.
The small town of Mexico Beach - population 1,200 - took the full force of Michael and first reports indicated the community had been all but wiped out, with evacuated residents urged to stay well away from the area. He was briefed by FEMA's Long in the Oval Office on preparations.
Upon making landfall near Mexico Beach, Florida, Michael was moving at 14 miles per hour ― more than double Florence's speed at landfall. Some 17,000 utility restoration workers were also on call.
An estimated 6,000 evacuees took cover in emergency shelters, a lot of them in Florida, and that number was expected to swell to 20,000 across five states by week's end, Mr Kieserman said.
Hurricane Michael just made landfall along the Florida panhandle and it's packing much more of a punch than most assumed it would when warnings about its arrival began to spread about a week ago.
Florida has activated 3500 National Guard troops.
"We expect Michael to make landfall near Panama City, Florida, Wednesday midday or early afternoon", AccuWeather hurricane expert Dan Kottlowski said. Up to a foot (30 cm) of rainfall was forecast for some areas.
The Greensboro man's death came after Florida Gov. Rick Scott said at a press conference Wednesday night that there had been no reported fatalities yet.