At a Tallahassee hotel, Lou Bassett was trying to make the most of having his family's beach vacation in Cape San Blas abruptly curtailed as he unloaded sandy strollers and luggage from his auto while one of his sons looked on grumpily. But civilians don't have to follow orders, and authorities feared many failed to heed their calls to get out of the way as the hard-charging storm intensified over 84-degree Gulf of Mexico water. Less than a day earlier, Michael was a Category 2.
"The time to evacuate has come and gone ..." Lines at gasoline stations grew as people left.
Hargan, a bartender at a riverfront restaurant, feared he would lose his home and his job to the storm.
"For us, this storm is not going to be like Fran, Florence or Michael", she said. Mike Bettes, a meteorologist with The Weather Channel, noted on Twitter Wednesday morning that his crew was pulling out of Apalachicola, a small coastal community to the right of Michael's projected landfall that will likely bear the brunt of the storm's winds and surge.
A further 3.7 million people are under hurricane warnings along the Florida coast areas as well as in parts of southeastern Alabama and southern Georgia.
The storm appeared to be so powerful that it is expected to remain a hurricane as it moves over Georgia early Thursday.
Heavy rains are forecast for the Carolinas, which were drenched by Hurricane Florence last month.
Several hours ahead of landfall, seawater was already lapping over the docks at Massalina Bayou near downtown Panama City, and knee-deep water was rising against buildings in St. Marks, which sits on an inlet south of Tallahassee.
The WaterSound Beach Club near Panama City Beach is also sharing a live-cam view of crashing waves and rain.
While most homes around him are vacation rentals or summer getaways for their owners, Sadousky had stayed put through more than four decades of storms. Evacuations spanned 22 counties from the Florida Panhandle into north central Florida.
President Trump has declared a state of emergency for the entire state of Florida, and Governor Rick Scott pleaded on Wednesday with anyone in an evacuation zone - around 500,000 people - to "leave RIGHT NOW", or risk their lives.
"I guess it's the worst case scenario".