The deadly hurricane's assault left nothing more than empty foundations and heaps of rubble when it smashed into Florida's northwest coast near the small town of Mexico Beach on Wednesday with screeching 155 mile per hour winds and 14-foot storm surges.
The big tourist attraction of Gulf World Marine Park in Panama City Beach was among the casualties, with extensive wind damage to some of its buildings, but all its animals were reported to be safe thanks to a skeleton staff who stayed behind to look after the six-acre facility. The storm impacted hundreds of thousands of people across the South and they need help to recover and rebuild.
Florida's glittering Emerald Coast will be missing much of its lustre for the next few months in the wake of devastating Hurricane Michael, which scored a massive direct hit on the north-west part of the Sunshine State on Wednesday.
The storm tore entire neighborhoods apart, reducing homes and businesses to piles of wood and siding, damaging roads and leaving scenes of devastation that resembled the aftermath of a carpet-bombing operation.
Gulf Coast Regional Medical Center in hard-hit Panama City, 32 km northwest of Mexico Beach, was treating some of the injured.
Mexico Beach is a community of about 1,200 people and city leaders say about a quarter of them chose to ride out the storm in the area. A year ago, the school welcomed students and families displaced by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.
Search-and-rescue teams fanned out across the Florida Panhandle to reach trapped people in Michael's wake Thursday after the third-most powerful hurricane on record to hit the continental USA carved a path of destruction across the Southeast.
Over Georgia, Michael will dump up to seven inches of rain as it continues on its path over the southeastern US.
All non-essential travel to and from the area, also known as Florida's Panhandle, has been suspended, but the busy cruise port of Tampa 250 miles to the south was able to breathe a sigh of relief as it largely avoided the worst effects of the storm.
Based on its internal barometric pressure, Michael was the third most powerful hurricane to hit the US mainland, behind the unnamed Labor Day storm of 1935 and Camille in 1969. About 359,000 customers in Florida were in the dark early Thursday, according to the state's emergency management agency. Early on Friday, the center of the storm was set to drift past Virginia Beach back into the Atlantic Ocean, he said.
Rick Scott said both hospitals in Panama City are destroyed.
Nearly 1.2 million homes and businesses were without power from Florida to Virginia on Thursday because of the storm.
Michael also disrupted energy operations in the US Gulf of Mexico as it approached land, cutting crude oil production by more than 40 percent and natural gas output by almost one-third as offshore platforms were evacuated.