'The historical record, going back to 1851, finds no Category 4 hurricane ever hitting the Florida panhandle'.
The system has now graduated to Category 2 hurricane status and is expected to reach Category 3 (with winds in excess of 110 mph) when it makes its US mainland landfall on Wednesday afternoon.
At least three deaths were blamed on Michael, the most powerful hurricane to hit the continental U.S. in over 50 years, and it wasn't done yet: Though reduced to a tropical storm, it brought flash flooding to North Carolina and Virginia, soaking areas still recovering from Hurricane Florence.
Patterson estimated 1,000 homes were completely or partially destroyed in his town of 3,500 people.
Jordon Tood, 31, a charter boat captain in Port St. Joe, said: "There were mandatory evacuation orders, but only idiots like us stuck around".
"We're looking at a significant storm with significant impact, possibly greater than I've seen in my 59 years of life, " Johnson said of his city on the shore of Apalachicola Bay, which where about 90 percent of Florida's oysters are harvested.
At least two deaths have been blamed on the storm.
A storm is designated a Category 1 hurricane if it reaches speeds of 74 miles per hour (119 kph) or more, and a Category 3 hurricane at 111 miles per hour (178 kph) or more on the five-step Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale. "But, holy smokes, this one kicked our butt". A year ago, the school welcomed students and families displaced by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.
"I have had employees going to the communities where our kids live, going door to door and checking", Principal Britt Smith by phone. Now their home is full of mud and everywhere they look there's utter devastation in their Florida Panhandle community: fishing boats tossed like toys, roofs lifted off of buildings and pine trees snapped like matchsticks in 155 miles per hour winds. "So far, everybody seems to be very safe".
A fast and furious Hurricane Michael is speeding toward the Florida Panhandle with 120 miles per hour winds and a potential storm surge of 13 feet, giving tens of thousands of people precious little time to get out or board up.
A satellite image of Tropical Storm Michael taken Monday. The storm could bring 3 to 6 inches of rain and flash floods as it barrels over a corner of the country still recovering from Hurricane Florence.
The victims comprise fourfrom Florida, a child in Georgia and a man in North Carolina, authorities said.
- Rescued: 47 helped out of hard-hit areas along Florida's coastline, and 20 people in flooded neighborhoods in North Carolina.
Mexico Beach, a gorgeous beachfront city, now looks like an apocalyptic mess, according to survivors. The hospital was evacuating 130 patients as it faced challenges of running on generators after the storm knocked out power, ripped off part of its roof and smashed windows, a spokesman for the hospital's owner HCA Healthcare said in an email.
More than 900,000 homes and business remain without power.
The number of people in emergency shelters was expected to swell to 20,000 across five states by Friday, said Brad Kieserman of the American Red Cross.
Michael also disrupted energy operations in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico as it approached land, cutting crude oil production by more than 40 percent and natural gas output by almost a third as offshore platforms were evacuated.