They're surrounded now by devastation: fishing boats and cars tossed like toys, empty slabs where people hopefully escaped before houses exploded in 155 miles per hour (249 kph) winds and were washed away by the storm surge. The destruction along Florida's white-sand northern Gulf Coast was called catastrophic. "It was very bad, and now there's just nothing left".
Officials said more than 400,000 homes and businesses were without electricity in Florida and 20,000 utility workers had been deployed to restore power. Aerial footage shows coastal cities in the Panhandle heavily destroyed.
Thousands of National Guard troops, law enforcement officers and rescue teams still had much to do in the hardest hit area: Florida's Panhandle.
Jeff and Katrina Pearsey, with a ruined rental home in the Panama City area and no indication of when they could again earn a living, said they were heading to Bangor, Maine, where Katrina once worked as a nurse. Hundreds of cars had broken windows.
Monster Hurricane Michael has now moved out into the Atlantic, but it left behind devastation of catastrophic proportions. Numerous 600 families who live there had followed orders to pack what they could in a single suitcase as they were evacuated ahead of the storm. The hurricane eyewall passed directly overhead, severely damaging almost every building. "Everything's gone. I didn't even know our road was our road", said 25-year-old Tiffany Marie Plushnik, an evacuee who returned to a home in Sandy Creek too damaged to live in.
"I lost everything so I got to start over", he said near a tent in a parking lot where a Geico insurance agent was taking claims.
"So many lives have been changed forever". Compare that to the preparations, infrastructure, and resources available in Puerto Rico when Hurricane Maria hit and it's not a mystery as to why they lost so many more people.
Boston-based Karen Clark & Company, an insurance company that produces models for catastrophes is estimating Hurricane Michael caused about $8billion in insured losses.
"I've watched on television, thinking of what others have experienced, like in the Carolinas and Texas", Mexico Beach Mayor Al Cathey told reporters referring to earlier hurricanes.
A man outside Tallahassee, Florida, was killed by a falling tree was the first of "four storm-related fatalities" announced by the Gadsden County Sheriff's office.
A 38-year-old motorist also was killed by a massive tree in Statesville, NC, and 11-year-old Sarah Radney of Georgia was killed when a metal carport struck her in the head as she hunkered down in her Seminole County home. A driver in North Carolina was killed when a tree fell on his auto.
By Friday morning, at least 11 people were dead, entire neighborhoods and beaches had disappeared. Four of them drowned, including James King of Dry Fork, Virginia. Michael's outer bands still could drop up to 3 inches of rain from New Jersey to Long Island to Cape Cod, and up to 5 inches over the MA islands of Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard through Friday afternoon, forecasters said.
A Virginia firefighter - Lt. Brad Clark - was killed when a tractor-trailer slammed into his fire truck on a slick road in the storm.
Other people were pulled to safety from wrecks and flash floods across the Carolinas and Virginia as tropical-storm force winds downed trees and power lines, leaving hundreds of thousands without power.
Meanwhile, Carroll said, authorities were setting up a triage tent to treat Mexico Beach residents stepping on nails and cutting themselves on debris. While we've grown used to many "false alarms" in terms of precisely how bad approaching storms may be, Michael overperformed by a significant margin. Numerous buildings, particularly the shelters, were built to withstand that type of punishment and people received enough warning to plan ahead, stock up provisions and seek the safest location possible. By one count, state officials said, 285 people in Mexico Beach defied mandatory evacuation orders and stayed behind. He said they stayed in the boat for six hours before the winds calmed and the surge receded. But the fate of many residents was unknown. That home is now smashed, with no sign of the woman.
"But you know what ... it's just stuff, it's just stuff", she told her husband, Raoul, as they walked through the ruins. "Do you think it would have floated away?" The Panama City hospital is staying open receiving patients in an emergency room running on generator power.