Michael snapped boats in two and hurled a large ship onto the shore, residents said.
"All of my furniture was floating", said Marquardt, 67. "'A river just started coming down the road. It was very bad, and now there's just nothing left".
Hundreds of people have been rescued from the debris and authorities fear the toll could climb higher as search-and-rescue efforts continue. The storm, still packing hurricane-force winds, then tore through Georgia before tracking through the Carolinas and Virginia on its way out to sea.
Isolated tornadoes are possible Thursday in South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia.
Numerous buildings in Panama City were demolished, partially collapsed or without roofs amid deserted streets littered with debris, twisted, fallen tree trunks and dangling wires. Flash flooding also was reported in the big North Carolina cities of Charlotte and Raleigh. But after the storm passed, she emerged to check on the cafe she manages and discovered a scene of breathtaking destruction.
Over 900 000 homes and businesses in Florida, Alabama, Georgia and the Carolinas were without power.
Southern Co's Gulf Power unit said it could take weeks to restore power in the hardest hit parts of Florida like the Panama City area.
Satellite images show how the powerful storm changed the landscape of Florida's Panhandle.
David Blackston climbs a damaged stairway to check on his second-floor apartment in the aftermath of hurricane Michael in Callaway, Fla., on October 11, 2018.
"What I'm afraid of is "hurricane amnesia" - 10 years is going to go by and we're going to forget about what happened at Mexico Beach", Long said at a press breifing Friday in Washington.
In nearby Panama City, Fla., few homes were destroyed but almost all were damaged.
Hundreds of residents were rescued on Thursday from cars, apartments and homes flooded by rushing water.
Gulf Coast Regional Medical Center treated some people but the hospital evacuated 130 patients as it was dealing with its own hurricane effects.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott said state officials still "do not know enough" about the fate of those who stayed behind in the region. Total damages from storm surge are estimated to be $3.7 billion, of which about ten percent will be insured. It doesn't include losses covered by the National Flood Insurance Program. He described the place as a "good family resort town" that attracts visitors seeking peace and quiet rather than the spring break-like atmosphere of other communities along the 200-mile (320-kilometre) Florida Panhandle.
Five deaths were reported in Virginia, in addition to four in Florida, one in Georgia and one in North Carolina.
A man who died when a tree fell on a home near Greensboro, Florida, has been identified as Steven Sweet, according to Lt. Anglie Hightower, Gadsden County Sheriff's Public Information Officer.
But judging from the number of homes reduced to "sticks", he said "my sense is they are going to find more victims". But emergency authorities lamented that many ignored the warnings. "A lot of people's concerned, and everybody's anxious", Millender said.
State officials said Mexico Beach was under mandatory evacuation orders but some residents chose to stay and try to ride out the storm.
So far, crews have rescued 34 and assisted more than 200 others.
Most of the full-time residents, LaFountain said, have some connection to the hospitality industry.
Mishelle McPherson and her ex-husband looked for the elderly mother of a friend on Thursday. The woman lived in a small cinderblock house about 150 yards from the Gulf and thought she would be OK.
A little further on, and a woman, accompanied by a friend, is sifting through the remains of her home, loading what she can salvage into the boot of a auto.
'Do you think her body would be here?' "But it's different when you walk down and see this, and your emotions run away".