The storm then weakened to a tropical storm where it killed people in Georgia, Virginia, and North Carolina, Reuters reported, citing state officials.
The White House declared Thursday that "a major disaster exists in the state of Florida" - and that President Donald Trump has "ordered federal aid to supplement state and local recovery efforts in the areas affected by Hurricane Michael", according to a release.
Hurricane Michael is rapidly intensifying as it enters the Gulf of Mexico and is expected to strike Florida on Wednesday, forecasters said. An unknown number of people were still missing.
Marchetti said his volunteer search teams, consisting mostly of off-duty police officers and firefighters, also had rescued or accounted for 345 others previously reported to CrowdSource Rescue since Michael struck on Wednesday.
The number of fatalities was expected to rise further as no deaths have been reported from oceanfront communities, such as Mexico Beach, Port St. Joe and Panama City, that bore the brunt of the storm's wrath.
"Hurricane Michael is forecasted to be the most destructive storm to hit the Florida Panhandle in decades". It pushed a wall of seawater inland, causing widespread flooding.
In Mexico Beach, the army used heavy equipment to clear a path in the debris and allow rescuers through to search for trapped residents, survivors, or casualties, as Blackhawk helicopters circled overhead.
The number of dead was expected to rise, but authorities scrapped plans to set up a temporary morgue, indicating they had yet to see signs of mass casualties from the most powerful hurricane to hit the continental U.S. in almost 50 years.
The storm, which came ashore as a Category 4 on the five-step Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale, tore apart entire neighborhoods in the Panhandle.
Except for the emergency 911 system, authorities in Bay County, the epicentre of the disaster, were virtually without telephone or internet service until late on Friday, making communications internally and with the public hard.
"I hope we don't see it climb dramatically but I have reasons to believe we still haven't got into some of the hardest hit areas", he said. "We've been writing things down on pieces of paper". It looked a couple of days ago like it was not going to be much, and now it's looking like it could be a very big one, so we're prepared. The winds extend 185 miles (295 km) to the south and east of the center.
Coastal Florida cities have been damaged beyond recognition while homes, businesses, and agriculture have been tattered or flooded from Georgia to Virginia. "5 suspected tornadoes", read a tweet by the Virginia Department of Emergency Management.
"Our search and rescue team is still on the ground evacuating people and removing them from the rubble".
"I was going to stay here until it turned to a Cat 4", he said.
"It was the flawless beach town". "People will just pack up and leave".
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