In Mexico Beach, a seafront town where the hurricane made landfall, houses had been razed by storm surge, boats had been tossed into yards and the streets were littered with trees and power lines. "I don't think anyone would have experienced this in the Panhandle", meteorologist Ryan Maue of weathermodels.com told The Associated Press.
Entire blocks of homes near the beach were obliterated, reduced to concrete slabs in the sand.
In Port Condition Yankee, the tropical storm force winds are anticipated within 24 hours and the affected ports are closed to inbound vessel traffic greater than 500 gross tons.
More than a million people are without electricity, and areas along the Gulf Coast and elsewhere report severe outages of cellphone service and other communications.
"The Gulf Power system held strong from Pensacola to Fort Walton Beach - a testament to the investments we've made to harden our infrastructure", Gulf Power spokesman Jeff Rogers said in a statement.
Six Florida counties remain under curfews, as work crews try to push debris off of roads so utility and emergency crews can start to fix the damage and reach people who need help after one of the most powerful storms ever to hit the U.S.
"So many lives have been changed forever". Landlines and cellphones also were down to the complex, which has almost 1,000 residents and more than 300 staff. "Everything's gone. I didn't even know our road was our road", said 25-year-old Tiffany Marie Plushnik, an evacuee who returned to find her home in Sandy Creek too damaged to live in. He pulled two small boat docks from the water, packed his pickup and picked some beans from his garden before getting out - like hundreds of thousands elsewhere. It also was about 200 miles (325 kilometers) south-southwest of Apalachicola, Florida.
Citing data from aircraft that flew in the storm, the hurricane center says Michael is becoming better organized and symmetrical as it moves north.
Long expressed worry that people have suffered "hurricane amnesia". "We want to get them out of the way".
Florida Gov. Rick Scott warned it was a "monstrous hurricane", and his Democratic opponent for the Senate, Sen.
A state emergency-management official said all hospitals in the impacted region have reported some form of "critical failure" - water and sewage problems or infrastructure issues such as crumbling walls - that required patients to be relocated and medical field hospitals to be set up.
Do you think her body would be here?
But some officials were anxious by what they weren't seeing - a rush of evacuees. More than 380,000 homes and businesses were without power at the height of the storm.
"I am not seeing the level of traffic on the roadways that I would expect when we've called for the evacuation of 75 percent of this county", Bay County Sheriff Tommy Ford said.
Speaking later to reporters, Trump said the hurricane was "incredibly powerful". "But in my experience, it's always blown way out of proportion".
Numerous beach's residents followed evacuation orders. That included Pensacola Beach but not in Pensacola itself, a city of about 54,000.
Michael could dump up to a foot (30 centimeters) of rain over some Panhandle communities before its remnants go back out to sea by way of the mid-Atlantic states over the next few days.
The storm was on track to make an expected exit into the Atlantic Ocean by Friday morning, with some parts of Virginia and North Carolina expected to see as much as nine inches of rain, bringing the likelihood for risky flooding. And isolated tornadoes were also possible.