4 storm to hit the Florida Panhandle (in records dating back to 1851.) The storm started off as a tropical depression the weekend before, and had reached Category 2 strength just a day before it hit landfall. "It was weird. We went outside and you could smell the pine, and there it was, laying on the chimney". It was heading north-northeast at 14 miles per hour (22 kph) with maximum sustained winds down to 150 miles per hour, the hurricane center said.
Hurricane Michael is one of the most powerful storms ever to hit the US, and the proof is strewn across miles of Florida's coastline: Roofs and awnings peeled from buildings, pieces of homes scattered amid snapped trees and downed power lines, chunks of beaches washed away.
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.
According to a tweet published by the National Weather Service, a branch of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the director of the NWS called this landfall a "worst case scenario for the Florida Panhandle". Video footage captured during the storm showed homes totally inundated by storm surge as winds tore houses apart.
The storm, which had caught many by surprise with its rapid intensification as it churned north over the Gulf of Mexico, made landfall north-west of the town of Mexico Beach at about 1:40 pm (local time) as a category four hurricane on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale.
Michael hit Florida with wind speeds of 155 miles per hour (250 kilometers per hour), placing it nearly into Category 5 scale, which starts at 157 mph.
As it came ashore, Michael was just shy of a Category 5 - defined as a storm packing top sustained wind speeds of 157 miles per hour or above.
"My God, it's scary".
"I'm anxious about my daughter and grandbaby". "I worry about them every second and I hope there're no children there who didn't have the choice on their own to make these decisions".
At least 5 killed in heavy rains in Spain’s Mallorca
Other victims were found in Arta and the coastal village of S'illot, where the creek that overflowed reaches the sea. The flooding also affected phone communications, destroyed two bridges and forced the closure of 11 roads.
"Some additional weakening is expected today while the center remains over land".
The fate of about 280 residents who authorities said ignored evacuation orders was unknown.
"I'm just praying for them and, as soon as this passes, we will be out there doing everything we can to rescue everybody..."
"This situation has NEVER happened before", it said on Twitter.
Mandatory evacuations have been ordered in several Florida counties and devastating effects are expected to expand far inland.
Brock Long, head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), said early evacuation efforts in the area were slow.
Never in recorded weather history has a hurricane hit the mainland United States at such a speed in October, the month marking the end of the June to November hurricane season.
The storm continued on its destructive path, bringing heavy rains and tearing down trees. Up to a foot (30 cm) of rainfall was forecast for some areas.
Emergency response officials in McDowell County, in the North Carolina foothills, reported early Thursday morning that some roadways were already flooded.