Charlotte, North Carolina's largest city, was expecting as much as six inches of rain and wind gusts exceeding 30 miles per hour.
Joe Raedle/Getty ImagesPanama City resident Kathy Coy stands among the rubble after her home was destroyed by Hurricane Michael.
Surging water filled their first floor, now muddy and ruined.
Row after row of beachfront homes were obliterated by the epic Category 4 hurricane. A little more and he would have reached the most destructive of the 5th category, which is called catastrophic.
More than 400,000 homes and businesses were reported without power in Florida by late Thursday morning, and some communities were under boil advisories for fear of unsafe water.
The Army Corps of Engineers is sending in generators to help get power to storm-ravaged areas, and teams to start clearing debris and begin building temporary roofs.
Michael was forecast to have the power to uproot trees, block roads and knock out power for days by the time it hits Florida Wednesday. Homes were split open by fallen trees. Hundreds of cars had broken windows.
Similar issues were arising at nursing homes, and crews were flying in supplies to Florida State Hospital at Chattahoochee, which serves patients with mental illness.
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Numerous beach's residents followed evacuation orders. The elementary school, the flight line, the marina, the runways - all were devastated. We can not guarantee that it is suitable for the visually or hearing impaired.
"I expect the fatality count to climb today and tomorrow", Brock Long, head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), told CNN.
Many flights were canceled in the hurricane zone, and Amtrak changed some train schedules to protect passengers and employees. So many families have lost everything.
An insurance company that produces models for catastrophes estimated the damage at $8 billion. It doesn't include losses covered by the National Flood Insurance Program. The storm has killed a man in Florida and a girl in Georgia.
CNN reported a sixth death, a 38-year-old man who died on Thursday when a tree fell on his vehicle in North Carolina. She now runs a fishing charter business, and said the hurricane was a Category 2 when she decided not to heed a mandatory evacuation order for her county earlier this week. "She's my baby", Ms O'Brien said.
The storm is likely to fire up the debate over global warming.
The deaths were spread throughout the storm's vast path, from Florida to Virginia, where at least four people drowned in flooding caused by Michael's rainy remnants. Reaching the worst-hit areas wasn't easy.
"We know many people have been injured". But it moved so fast and intensified so quickly that people didn't have much time to prepare, and emergency authorities lamented that many ignored the warnings.
"You can't drive a auto anywhere, you can't do anything because it's littered with houses, pieces of houses", said Patricia Mulligan, who rode out the storm with her family in a condo in Mexico Beach, a town of mom-and-pop shops and sport-fishing businesses about 56km southeast of Panama City.
Now they have the grim task of accounting for all who stayed behind.