For comparison, here's a look at the strength of and damage caused by other notable storms that hit the USA in recent years.
The deaths illustrate the ripples of Michael's devastation beyond the Florida Panhandle, where Michael left more than 350,000 without power and entire neighborhoods in ruins.
Just a year ago, 14 people died following Hurricane Irma when a South Florida nursing home lost power and air conditioning.
"The ragged but raging remains of Hurricane Michael" were in North Carolina on Thursday morning, the state's governor, Roy Cooper, said.
"Mexico Beach was wiped out", said Brock Long, head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio tweeted he was hearing "stunning" reports of damage, including that "Mexico Beach is gone" and the "damage in Panama City is catastrophic".
At 8 p.m., tropical storm and hurricane conditions ravaged parts of the Florida Panhandle, southeastern Alabama and southwestern Georgia, spreading to south-central Georgia.
The storm has sustained winds of 130mph (210km/h) and is due to make landfall at about midday (16:00 GMT).
The fate of many other residents was unknown, authorities said.
Steve Sweet, who lived in Gretna, Florida, was killed by a falling tree.
Michael has left over 343,000 in the state without power. "Roofs are gone", Principal Britt Smith told CNN after talking by phone with those who did not evacuate.
The high winds were knocking down trees and power lines. Forecasters also warned spinoff tornadoes would also be a threat.
Her home was reduced to crumbled blocks and pieces of floor tile. But it moved fast and intensified quickly, and emergency authorities lamented that many people ignored the warnings. Storm surge, with forecasts of up to 14 feet in some areas, remained a major concern. Her home is still standing, unlike others, she said. The soil in many areas is saturated.
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Much of the affected area is rural and known for small tourist cities, beaches and wildlife reserves, as well as the state capital, Tallahassee.
"It will take a long time to recover from this". But "we have to make sure things are safe". "But I will confess that my biggest fear that this part of Florida, with its unique & genuine characteristics, will never be the same".
Where has Michael hit and where is it now? . "It was too late", Swab said. Bill Nelson said. "You are going to see a lot of destruction when the rescue crews get into Mexico Beach". The home of the 325th Fighter Wing and some 600 military families appeared squarely targeted for the worst of the storm's fury, and leaders declared "HURCON 1" status, ordering out all but essential personnel.
"We had furniture in our house that wasn't even ours", Scott Boutwell said, explaining that when he returned to his home Thursday the only belongings he could find was a briefcase.
Among those helping are about 450 Florida Highway Patrol officers, many of whom drove through the night to the Panhandle to help with rescues. "I think they will be back", LaFountain said in a phone interview while driving back to Mexico Beach.
Mexico Beach is on the west end of what is sometimes called Florida's Forgotten Coast, so named because it is not heavily developed like numerous state's other shoreline areas, with their lavish homes and high-rise condos and hotels.
Farmers gets pummeled: At least 53 poultry houses were destroyed in Georgia, where agriculture is the top industry, the state's Department of Agriculture said.
"Once you are sheltered, STAY PUT", Florida Gov.
Federal officials were anxious that the fast-moving nature of the storm didn't give residents enough time to get out.
Just an hour along the coast, it's different.
Red Cross officials said they expect shelter population to swell to 20,000 by Thursday or Friday.
"This storm has the potential to be a historic storm, please take heed, " the sheriff's office said in the post.
As it came ashore, Michael was just shy of a Category 5 - defined as a storm packing wind speeds of 157 miles per hour or above.
Trump said he is working closely with governors of Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Alabama and Georgia to provide resources and support from the federal government.