And in Virginia, the storm produced a handful of tornadoes and deaths as it made its way through the state and off into the Atlantic.
As of 11 p.m. Thursday, Michael's core was located about 15 miles north-northeast of Norfolk, Virginia, and was moving northeast at 25 mph, according to the National Hurricane Centre (NHC).
Surging water filled their first floor, now muddy and ruined.
Michael is a Category 2 storm, with sustained wind speeds of nearly 100 miles per hour (155 km/h), according to NOAA.
Row after row of beachfront homes were obliterated by the epic Category 4 hurricane.
Along the 200-mile Panhandle, Michael washed away white-sand beaches, hammered military bases and destroyed coastal communities, stripping trees to stalks, shredding roofs, toppling trucks and pushing boats into buildings. Officials predicted rebuilding costs in the billions. "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.
Sarah had just started the sixth grade and joined the drama club and the band. "It was very bad, and now there's just nothing left".
About 1.5 million homes and businesses were without power from Florida to Virginia on Friday, according to utility companies.
Under a clear blue sky, families living along the Florida Panhandle emerged from shelters and hotels to a perilous landscape of shattered homes and shopping centers, wailing sirens and hovering helicopters.
It could be weeks before power is restored to the most damaged parts of Florida, such as Panama City. Downed power lines and twisted street signs lay all around.
Hundreds of residents were rescued Thursday from cars, apartments and homes flooded by rushing water.
The hurricane also damaged hospitals and nursing homes in the Panama City area, and officials worked to evacuate hundreds of patients.
The hurricane's eyewall passed directly overhead, severely damaging almost every building and leaving many a complete loss. The elementary school, the flight line, the marina, the runways - all were devastated. "May God rebuke him, we humbly pray: and you, O prince of the heavenly hosts, by the power of God, cast down to hell Satan and the other evil spirits, who prowl through the world for the ruin of souls". "I just have to be hopeful that (the town) will be rebuilt and fixed".
"I think you're going to see it climb", FEMA Administrator Brock Long said of the death count at a news conference. "So many families have lost everything", he said.
It weakened overnight to a tropical storm. The figure does not include losses covered by the National Flood Insurance Program. Three other people in Gadsden were killed in separate storm-related incidents, Hightower said.
In North Carolina's mountains, motorists had to be rescued from cars trapped by high water. Authorities did not discuss the circumstances of their deaths, but their bodies have been taken to the medical examiner's office to determine the cause of death. Four of them drowned, including James King of Dry Fork, Virginia.
A bit of good news emerged around noon on Friday in Tallahassee, where the storm felled thousands of its famous oaks and other trees, damaging houses and blocking roads. But emergency authorities lamented that many ignored the warnings.
It developed into a hurricane on Monday, and by Tuesday, more than 180,000 people were already under mandatory evacuation orders. National Guard troops found 20 survivors initially Wednesday night, and more rescue crews are arriving.
Numerous beach's residents followed evacuation orders.
O Virgin, Star of the Sea, our beloved Mother, we ask you to plead with your Son on our behalf, so that spared from the calamities common to this area and animated with a true spirit of gratitude, we will walk in the footsteps of your Divine Son to reach the heavenly Jerusalem, where a stormless eternity awaits us. "But it's different when you walk down and see this, and your emotions run away".