He and his partner Cheri Papineau, 50, pushed on their door for an hour to stop the storm surge bursting in as their four dogs sat on top of a bed floating in their home.
Row after row of beachfront homes were so obliterated by Michael's surging seas and howling winds that only slabs of concrete in the sand remain, a testament that this was ground zero when the epic Category 4 hurricane slammed ashore at midweek. The Coast Guard said it rescued at least 27 people, and the National Guard rescued 20 people who survived the direct hit on Mexico Beach. Rescuers from the Federal Emergency Management Agency used dogs, drones and Global Positioning System in the search.
"We prepare for the worst and hope for the best. This is obviously the worst", said Stephanie Palmer, a FEMA firefighter and rescuer from Coral Springs, Florida. All phone contact was cut off to the complex of almost 1,000 residents and more than 300 staff, leaving them only with emergency radios to reach the outside world.
State officials said 285 people in Mexico Beach had refused to leave ahead of the hurricane despite a mandatory evacuation order.
Aerial footage from a helicopter showed widespread devastation across the town of about 1,000 people. "I thought we were goners". The damage at Bay Medical Sacred Heart included blown-out windows, a cracked exterior wall and a roof collapse in a maintenance building. Last year, they welcomed children who were displaced by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. "I've never seen anything like this".
Based on its internal barometric pressure, Michael was the third most powerful hurricane to hit the USA mainland, behind the unnamed Labor Day storm of 1935 and Camille in 1969.
It weakened overnight to a tropical storm.
The coastal township of Mexico Beach, Fla., lays devastated on Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018, after Hurricane Michael made landfall on Wednesday in the Florida Panhandle. Now recovery is just barely beginning from the catastrophic destruction even as a downgraded Michael spreads high winds, rains and flash flooding misery as far away as Virginia.
River and street flooding, fallen trees and the threat of tornadoes began spreading into central North Carolina on Thursday, prompting the state's governor to urge people to avoid travel until Tropical Storm Michael clears the region tonight or tomorrow.
An 11-year-old girl in southwestern Georgia also died when a tree fell on her home, officials said.
Emergency services carried out dozens of rescues of people caught in swiftly moving floodwaters in North Carolina.
The devastation to the tiny towns of Mexico City and Panama City Beach was enormous - one resident said it "looked like a bomb went off" - and yet the hurricane's descent on a sparsely populated stretch of beach was credited with limiting the damage. No patients were hurt, the hospital said.
The not-for-profit blood center OneBlood, can be found in nearly all of the counties in Florida and in the southern regions of Alabama, Georgia and SC.
The Red Cross is also encouraging people to give blood.
Brad Rippey, a meteorologist for the U.S. Agriculture Department, said Michael severely damaged cotton, timber, pecan and peanut crops, causing estimated liabilities as high as $1.9 billion USA and affecting up to 1.5 million crop hectares.