See Hurricane Michael from Space in These Satellite Images

Mandatory evacuation orders went into effect for some 120,000 people in Panama City Beach and across other low-lying parts of the coast.

Long says "Mexico Beach took the brunt, that's probably ground zero".

Michael is shaking up the upcoming election in the battleground state of Florida.

Michael is not expected to be a reprise of Florence, which pummeled the state for several days, producing record rainfall and river flooding, and has been blamed on 40 deaths in the state.

If you decide to stay in your home and the storm surge catches you and you're now calling for help, there's no one that can respond to help you. "There's still hurricane winds out there, but I think the worst of it has passed us". The hurricane shut in more than 40 percent of oil production capacity in the Gulf of Mexico, according to data from the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, as well as nearly 32 percent of gas production capacity.

Images captured by Associated Press journalists show how Florida residents took shelter while waters were rising ahead of Michael's landfall.

Crews were out early Thursday searching for more victims. They're also trying to figure out the extent of damage to roads and bridges.

Schools and state offices in the area are to remain shut this week.

Past year saw a string of catastrophic storms batter the western Atlantic - including Irma, Maria and Harvey, which caused a record-equalling $125 billion in damage when it flooded the Houston metropolitan area.

Michael battered the shoreline with sideways rain, powerful gusts and crashing waves, swamping streets and docks, flattening trees, stripped away leaves, shredding awnings and peeling away shingles.

He said strong winds picked up a portable carport Wednesday and dropped it down on the roof. One of the carport's legs punctured the roof and hit her in the head.

"We've been through this before", Sally Crown said she closed the cafe where she works because the city was shutting off the sewer system in anticipation of the storm.

Then, as the storm crosses over the Southeast U.S. on Wednesday evening and Thursday, it will weaken.

Hurricane Michael, swiftly moving north through the Gulf of Mexico, is growing more unsafe as it is set to bring "devastation" Wednesday to parts of the Florida Panhandle and Big Bend region, Gov. Rick Scott said Tuesday morning. Video from a CNN helicopter Thursday revealed widespread devastation across the town of about 1,000 people.

Gadsden County sheriff's spokeswoman Anglie Hightower said a "male subject" was killed by a tree toppling onto his house in Greensboro, Florida, near the state capital, Tallahassee, in the first report of a fatality from the hurricane. They say these regions can expect eight to 12 feet of storm surge. A Tropical Storm Watch means that tropical storm conditions are possible within the watch area.

"We don't know if it's going to wipe out our house or not", Jason McDonald, of Panama City, said as he and his wife drove north into Alabama with their two children, ages 5 and 7. The storm was moving northeast at 20 mph with 60 mph maximum sustained winds, about 15 mph less than the minimum speed to be considered a hurricane.

Forecasters said it could bring 3 to 6 inches of rain to Georgia, the Carolinas and Virginia, triggering flash flooding in a corner of the country still recovering from Hurricane Florence. The roar of the winds, he said, sounded like a jet engine.

Authorities said at least two people have died, a man killed by a tree falling on a Panhandle home and according to WMAZ-TV, an 11-year-old girl was also killed by a tree falling on a home in southwest Georgia. In addition, a Tropical Storm Warning is in effect from the Alabama/Florida border to the Mississippi/Alabama border and for Suwanee River, Florida to Chassahowitzka, Florida. TORNADOES: The threat for tornadoes will increase late tonight into Wednesday over parts of the Florida Panhandle, the northern Florida Peninsula, and southern Georgia.