Storm-surge warnings were in place between Panama City Beach and Keaton Beach in Florida, and between Ocracoke Inlet and Duck in North Carolina.
Tornadoes are possible through this evening across central and eastern North Carolina and southeast Virginia. The woman lived in a small cinderblock house about 150 yards from the Gulf and thought she would be OK.
"Going back through records to 1851 we can't find another "Cat 4" in this area, so this is a historical and an incredibly risky and life-threatening situation", he said. Downed power lines and twisted street signs lay all around.
As thousands of National Guard troops, law enforcement officers and medical teams spread out, the governor pleaded with people in the devastated areas to stay away because of hazards such as fallen trees and power lines. "All of my furniture was floating", she said.
Harvey and Michael didn't strengthen quite so much, so fast, but they rapidly intensified in the crucial hours before making their final continental USA landfalls. In Lynn Haven, north of Panama City, he described finding one woman curled up in a fetal position in a garage with a tree over her head - a "very unsafe, sketchy situation", he said.
More than 375,000 people up and down the Gulf Coast were ordered or urged to evacuate as Michael closed in.
The storm's center is now about 30 miles west of Augusta, Georgia, near the SC border. "I don't know the numbers yet". Shards of glass and pieces of clothing could be seen all over the hotel.
"Oh my God, what are we seeing?" said evacuee Rachel Franklin, her mouth hanging open. Up to a foot (30 cm) of rainfall was forecast for some areas from Michael. It includes the privately insured wind and storm surge damage to residential, commercial and industrial properties and automobiles.
A water-level station in Apalachicola, close to where Michael came ashore, reported a surge of almost 8 feet (2.4 meters). From what officials could determine, Brooks said, it looked like a metal carport used to store boats had been lifted in the air by the gusting winds and had flipped over.
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Hurricane Michael, the fiercest storm to hit Florida in more than 80 years and the third-most powerful ever to strike the US mainland, battered the state's Gulf coast on Wednesday with roof-shredding winds, towering surf and torrential rains.
"We just hope those structures can hold up", President Donald Trump responded. "A very unsafe one".
Across the bay in Panama City Beach, a resort city on the Gulf of Mexico known for its white-sand beach and amusement parks, winds of about 100 miles per hour furiously whipped the trees in the early afternoon and pulled apart homes.
"My home was built in 1962 is the only one with a solid roof left", Golding said.
Hours earlier, meteorologists watched satellite imagery in complete awe as the storm intensified.
General Terrence O'Shaughnessy, commander of the North American Aerospace Defense Command, said some Florida residents may have been surprised by the rapid growth of the storm. "This is obviously the worst", said Stephanie Palmer, a FEMA firefighter and rescuer from Coral Springs, Florida.
The storm is likely to fire up the debate over global warming.
Historic storm:Michael is the third most intense hurricane to hit the continental U.S. since 1851 based on its low central pressure, CNN meteorologist Pedram Javaheri said.
Her brother, she said, lost a condo along the beach, and the other nearby units were also destroyed. But without extensive study, they can not directly link a single weather event to the changing climate.