Michael charged ashore on Wednesday near the small Florida Panhandle town of Mexico Beach as one of the most powerful storms in US history, with top sustained winds of 155 miles per hour (250 km per hour).
The former Category 4 storm is now a post tropical cyclone in the Atlantic Ocean.
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.
"You can't make sense of it, but what you do is you take the situation, and what we have to make certain that our kids know is that we must be resilient", Smith said. "I didn't expect all this", said Bill Manning (63), a grocery clerk who left his camper van in Panama City to move into a hotel, where the power eventually went out.
State officials issued disaster declarations in Alabama and Georgia and the storm is also expected to bring heavy rainfall to North and SC.
So far, no counties along the devastated northwest Florida coast have reported deaths related to the storm.
"We are catching some hell", Timothy Thomas, who rode out the storm with his wife in their home in Panama City Beach, Florida, told the Associated Press news agency.
Authorities said at least one person has died, a man killed by a tree falling on a Panhandle home.
Aerial drone footage captures the absolute destruction in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael. The storm had top sustained winds of 60 miles per hour (96 kph) and was moving to the northeast at 20 miles per hour (32 kph).
A day after the storm hit, Mexico Beach remained very hard to reach, with roads covered by fallen trees, power lines and other storm debris. The man was trapped by a fallen tree at his home in Greensboro, Gladsden County, police reported.
Scientists say global warming is responsible for more intense and more frequent extreme weather, such as storms, droughts, floods and fires.
Catastrophic scenes have emerged across the Florida Panhandle, but none perhaps worse than in Mexico Beach, ground zero of the devastation.
The storm moved fast and many people didn't have time to evacuate as the the tropical depression formed over the weekend and strengthened into a Category 2 hurricane on Tuesday.
The hurricane weakened to a category 1 storm late on Wednesday.
Michael was the strongest storm to ever hit the Florida Panhandle, and the only hurricane to do so as a Category 4.
By 5 a.m., Michael's eye was about 45 miles (72 kilometres) west of Augusta, Georgia, packing top winds of 50 mph (80 kph) and moving at 21 mph (33 kph) into SC, the National Hurricane Center in Miami said. The storm had top sustained winds of 96 kph and was moving to the northeast at 32 kph. If the Waffle House hasn't reopened after the storm, FEMA considers that a sign that the area has experienced major devastation. It also was an October icon - the strongest continental United States hurricane to make an October landfall based on maximum sustained winds at 155 miles per hour.
Mexico Beach is on the west end of what's called Florida's Forgotten Coast, so named because it is not heavily developed like numerous state's other shoreline areas, with their lavish homes and high-rise condos and hotels.
Nearby Panama City Beach experienced similar damage along with other communities along the shore of the Gulf of Mexico. Michael's storm surge pushed lead-gray water up to the rooftops.
Michael also disrupted energy operations in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico as it approached land, cutting crude oil production by more than 40 percent and natural gas output by almost a third as offshore platforms were evacuated.