Most of New Orleans was flooded, and some people who were stranded in their homes climbed to the roofs to await rescue. Soon enough, Mexico Beach's emerald waters and white sugar-sand beaches were covered in a dark sea of splintered debris, she said. "It's like a nightmare". "It was weird. We went outside and you could smell the pine, and there it was, laying on the chimney".
A auto is seen caught in floodwaters in Panama City, Fla.
Meanwhile, tropical storm warnings were in effect for parts of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina.
Patterson said about 2,500 of the town's 3,500 people were still there, including about 100 in a beachside area who ignored a mandatory evacuation order.
Allender said they were sitting in the dark because their building had lost power. While eyes in space watch the unsafe storm from above, cameras on the ground are tracking the hurricane's impending landfall for live internet viewing. "Stay inside until directed further so that our recovery teams can move in as quickly as possible", he tweeted.
"Along our coast, communities are going to see unimaginable devastation", Scott said, with storm surge posing the greatest danger.
"It's going to be awful", Thomas toldCNN. "I mean, literally, we follow it right in". "We will take care of each other". An eight-foot storm surge inundated neighborhoods, covering some homes to the rooftop.
The eye of the storm, ... Coupled with that you have over 145 miles per hour winds. The roar of the winds, he said, sounded like a jet engine.
Rick Scott, the Florida governor, said on Twitter: "The time to evacuate has come and gone".
"Where that becomes a factor is with the evacuation of some of the local populations", he said.
"I guess it's the worst-case scenario".
"The timing was ghoulishly ideal", said Weather Underground meteorologist Bob Henson. "This is going to have structure-damaging winds along the coast and hurricane force winds inland". "The historical record, going back to 1851, finds no Category 4 hurricane ever hitting the Florida panhandle". The sinister-looking red and gray skull appeared briefly on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration infrared satellite images.
Trump issued an emergency declaration for Florida, freeing up federal funds for relief operations and providing the assistance of FEMA, which has more than 3,000 people on the ground. "You know, that's hard", she said, choking back tears.
Multiple airports were closed on Wednesday, including Tallahassee International Airport, Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport, Pensacola International Airport and Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport.
The deadliest hurricane on record cost the lives of about 20,000 people, with most of the damage and fatalities occurring in Barbados and surrounding islands.
A unsafe storm surge continued along the coastal Florida panhandle; a National Ocean Service station in Apalachicola was reporting 5 feet of water above the ground level.
The hurricane center's Graham said Michael represented a "textbook case" of a hurricane system growing stronger as it drew near shore, in contrast to Hurricane Florence, which struck North Carolina last month after weakening in a slow, halting approach.
Hurricane Michael also stands out because of its late arrival. A little over a day later, it had transformed into a monster. It generated wind speeds of up to 200 miles per hour (322 km per hour).
Meteorologists say Michael got its fury from the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
Those storms left a trail of destruction: the 1935 hurricane was responsible for 408 deaths in the Keys, while Camille was linked to 256 deaths in two states, according to the hurricane center.