When its eye hit Florida's Gulf Coast on Wednesday afternoon, the storm had sustained winds of 155 miles per hour, according to the National Hurricane Center, putting it just shy of a Category 5 hurricane.
The latest update from the NHC cites still Category 3 sustained winds and at this time hurricane Michael is moving towards Georgia, which is unusual but due to the late intensification and fast movement of the storm not entirely unexpected.
"I'll be traveling to Florida very, very shortly and I just want to wish them all the best". Widespread power outages are expected to stretch from parts of the Florida panhandle up through Georgia as well as the Carolinas, but anyone within reach of the storm's rapid winds should be prepared to be without power at some point over the next few days. Up to a foot of rainfall was forecast for some areas, still recovering from Hurricane Florence's flooding.
Richard Fausset of The New York Times said the winds were so intense that it felt like a California quake.
A transformer also exploded in Panama City Beach.
"We are attempting to get to the home. The historical record, going back to 1851, finds no category four hurricane ever hitting the Florida Panhandle".
An official with an emergency management agency says Tropical Storm Michael is responsible for a child's death in Georgia.
Trump was briefed on the hurricane on Wednesday prior to it making landfall and said he would visit the area early next week.
"I know that there's a lot of bad stuff that happened out there on the Panhandle, but I think that we were very fortunate here", Lake City resident Tyler Flanagan said.More news: Google unveils its own Chrome OS tablet, the Pixel Slate
As many as 320,000 people on Florida's Gulf Coast had disregarded evacuation notices, according to Brad Kieserman of the American Red Cross. "It's going to be big problems ... as far as the wind goes, and then coastal storm surge", CNN meteorologist Jennifer Gray said.
President Donald Trump declared a state of emergency for the entire state of Florida, freeing up federal assistance to supplement state and local disaster responses.
Meteorologists watched satellite imagery in complete awe as the storm intensified.
Only the so-called Labor Day hurricane of 1935 in the Florida Keys (892 millibars) and Hurricane Camille on the Mississippi Gulf Coast in 1969 (900 millibars) were more intense.
The governors of North and SC urged residents to brace for more heavy rain and storm-force winds as Michael ploughs northward up the Atlantic seaboard.
As the hurricane moves out of Florida, Scott warned that flash floods and tornadoes are still possibilities and said "the weather is still extremely unsafe".
Hargan, a bartender at a riverfront restaurant, feared he would lose his home and his job to the storm.
"I'm freaking scared I'm going to lose everything I own, man."
Numerous buildings in Panama City were demolished or left without roofs amid deserted streets littered with debris, twisted, fallen tree trunks and dangling wires.
Only a skeleton staff remains at the home of the 325th Fighter Wing after the base's aircraft, which include F-11 Raptors, were flown hundreds of kilometres away as a precaution.