The strongest hurricanes to hit the Florida Panhandle before Michael (based on maximum sustained wind) were the Pensacola Hurricane of 1882 and Eloise in 1975, both of which were Category 3 with 125 miles per hour winds at landfall.
Catastrophic scenes have emerged across the Florida Panhandle.
"It's very hard to explain", said Jason Gunderson, a member of the Cajun Navy rescue group.
Meanwhile, Surfline is offering several live streams of beaches in Florida that may be impacted, including Twin Piers in Manatee County, Anna Maria Island beach, Panama City Beach, and the Venice Beach jetties.
While Florence took five days between the time it turned into a hurricane and the moment it rolled into the Carolinas, Michael gave Florida what amounted to two days' notice.
As the storm barrels toward the coast, it threatens 3.8 million people who are all under hurricane warnings in Florida's panhandle and Big Bend regions, according to CNN.
Principal Britt Smith choked up as he looked at images of the decimated building. "They did, however, advise us that there were strong winds and said that we should not go off campus today and if we did we should proceed with caution". "It's just how do we get together, how do we recover?"
Local officials are warning that not almost enough people have evacuated as they would wish.
"There are so many downed power lines and trees that it's nearly impossible to get through the city", Apalachicola Mayor Van Johnson said.
They said recovery teams "have found widespread catastrophic damage", including roof damage to nearly every home on the base.
"Do not risk your life, leave NOW if you were told to do so", it said. No one has heard from them since Wednesday afternoon. She was among an estimated 280 Mexico Beach residents who decided not to evacuate, administrator Tanya Castor said. A neighbor told McCall that all the docks in the area were destroyed and many people are stuck in their homes as the roads have been blocked with debris.
Richard Fausset, and Atlanta-based reporter for The New York Times, posted a photo of a group of people huddling in a storage closet at his hotel in Panama City.
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Smith, in Gadsden County, said the situation was risky even for emergency personnel.
It made landfall on the coast as a Category 1 hurricane on September 14 and drenched some parts of the state with 40 inches (101 centimeters) of rain.
- The human cost: A man in Gadsden County, Florida, killed by a falling tree, and an 11-year-old girl in Seminole County, Georgia, killed when a carport blew through the roof of her home.
FEMA's Long said he's anxious the number of deaths will rise Thursday.
Red Cross officials said they expect shelter population to swell to 20,000 by Thursday or Friday.
He and his partner Cheri Papineau, 50, pushed on their door for an hour to stop the storm surge bursting in as their four dogs sat on top of a bed floating in their home.
"To my understanding, the hurricane was not directly in our path, but we would experience some heavy winds and rains which we did".
Human-caused greenhouse gases in the atmosphere create an energy imbalance, with more than 90% of remaining heat trapped by the gases going into the oceans, according to the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Association.
Michael's strength may reflect the effect of climate change on storms.
Gov. Rick Scott said the Panhandle woke up to "unimaginable destruction".