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.
State officials issued disaster declarations in Alabama and Georgia and the storm is also expected to bring heavy rainfall to North and SC.
"Along our coast, communities are going to see unimaginable devastation".
An unidentified man in the Florida Panhandle was killed by a fallen tree when it ripped through his home's roof, a spokeswoman for the Gadsden County Sheriff's Office told Fox News.
Severe flooding, structural building damage, uprooted trees and downed power lines appeared widespread in coastal areas near where the storm made landfall.
The death, in an area west of state capital Tallahassee, was the first confirmed since Michael made landfall.
President Donald Trump declared a state of emergency for all of Florida, freeing up federal assistance to supplement state and local disaster responses.
"It really started as a tropical storm, and then it went to Category 1, then it was Category 2 and before you know it, it was Category 4", O'Shaughnessy said.
"I think that we just caught the band of it". A pine tree punched a hole in their roof and he said the roar of the storm sounded like a jet engine as the winds accelerated.
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About 2,500 National Guard troops were deployed to assist with evacuations and storm preparations, and more than 4,000 others were on standby. Some 17,000 utility restoration workers were also on call.
More than 600,000 were without power across the region on Wednesday night and officials warn that some areas could be without power for weeks.
Michael has now weakened to a tropical storm over south-central Georgia but is forecast to dump torrential rain over Florida, Alabama and Georgia, as well as the Carolinas and into Virginia.
Forecasters said it would unleash damaging wind and rain all the way into the Carolinas, which are still recovering from Hurricane Florence's epic flooding.
A restaurant fixture known as "Big Gus" is seen damaged by Hurricane Michael in Panama City Beach. A little over a day later, it had transformed into a monster.
Meteorologists offered stark warnings ahead of Wednesday's landfall.
But Kottlowski noted that meteorologists are still analyzing Hurricane Michael, and it's possible that it will be retroactively upgraded to Category 5 status based on wind speeds.
Weather services and authorities expect both the winds and storm surges from Hurricane Michael to cause significant damage to the Florida Panhandle.
That put it just shy of a Category 5 hurricane, which would require wind speeds of 157 miles per hour, but Michael is nevertheless one of the strongest storms to ever strike the American mainland.
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