He says a firefighter also was killed when a tractor-trailer slammed into his fire truck while he was responding to a two-car crash in heavy storm conditions.
Shell-shocked survivors who barely escaped with their lives told of terrifying winds, surging floodwaters and homes cracking apart. "We're going to be out of running water pretty shortly, I'm sure", she said. Homes were swallowed in storm surge.
The coastal towns of Panama City and Mexico Beach bore the brunt of the damage from the category four storm, which at one point reached speeds of 155mph.
Almost entire blocks of small two-story beach homes were razed to their tile floors, likely by the storm surge.
Rescue teams were using sniffer dogs in Mexico Beach on Friday in a search for victims who may be buried under the rubble in the debris-strewn community.
Forecasters said Michael was still a potent tropical storm Thursday evening, centered about 5 miles (8 kilometers) northwest of Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina, and packing top sustained winds of 50 mph (80 kph). Michael left a trail of utility wires on roads, flattened tall pine trees and knocked a steeple from a church.
"Why people didn't evacuate is something we should be studying", said Craig Fugate, former director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and a former Florida state emergency management chief.
Damaged homes are seen along the water's edge in the aftermath of hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach, Fla., Friday, Oct. 12, 2018.
If the sky was blue again on Thursday mid-day, the streets of Panama City were covered with branches of trees, roofs torn off, pieces of glass. The fate of many other residents was unknown, authorities said.
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The fast-moving storm had cut a swath through southeast Alabama, Georgia and the Carolinas by Thursday morning.
Numerous injured in Florida were taken to hard-hit Panama City, 20 miles (32 km) northwest of Mexico Beach. Bay Medical Sacred Heart was moving about 200 patients from buildings with blown-out windows, a cracked exterior wall and a collapsed roof. A year ago the school welcomed students and families displaced by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.
Emergency officials said they had completed an initial "hasty search" of the stricken area, looking for the living or the dead, and had begun more careful inspections of thousands of ruined buildings.
"The kids live nearby. Roofs are gone", Principal Britt Smith told CNN after talking by phone with those who did not evacuate.
While many cities along the Florida Panhandle enjoy the protection of various channel, barrier and tied islands, which can help stifle the impact of storm surge on the mainland, Mexico Beach sits between Crooked Island and the St. Joseph Peninsula, directly on the water.
Michael pummeled communities across the Panhandle and turned streets into roof-high waterways.
Sally Crown rode out Michael on the Panhandle thinking at first that the worst damage was the many trees downed in her yard.
Brad Rippey, a meteorologist for the U.S. Agriculture Department, said Michael severely damaged cotton, timber, pecans and peanuts, causing estimated liabilities as high as $1.9 billion and affecting up to 3.7 million crop acres (1.5 million hectares).
More than 375,000 people up and down the Gulf Coast were ordered or urged to clear out as Michael closed in.
The storm is rumbling into SC, while also bringing strong winds and heavy rains to North Carolina and Virginia amid a tornado threat, many news outlets reported.