CNN's Brooke Baldwin made it by helicopter and delivered heartbreaking images before many of her rivals made it. News organizations also made use of drones for striking aerial footage of storm damage.
Tropical Storm Michael continues to weaken as it over eastern Georgia as it makes its way toward the Carolinas.
At landfall, it was almost a Category 5 storm that smashed records as the strongest ever to roar onto the state's exposed Panhandle.
"To my understanding, the hurricane was not directly in our path, but we would experience some heavy winds and rains which we did". It also set off transformer explosions and knocked out power to more than 388,000 homes and businesses.
As the Category 4 storm's center crossed nearby, Mulligan said, her concrete complex shook and vibrated against sustained winds of around 155 miles per hour.
On Oct. 9, the VIIRS instrument aboard NASA-NOAA's Suomi satellite provided a visible look at Tropical Storm Nadine. It was centered about 30 miles southwest of Macon, Georgia.
The latest Area Forecast Discussion for Jacksonville Courtesy of the National Weather Service.
Reporters had to make their way through roads clogged by downed trees and power lines.
Mr Long said several hospitals in the Panhandle were hit by the hurricane and patients had to be evacuated. "All the stores, all the restaurants, everything - there's nothing left here anymore".
"First the cars started floating by, and all the debris was in the air", Mexico Beach resident Scott said. The wind howled and rainwater leaked through the ceiling. So many families have lost everything. She and her daughter booked a hotel room through Friday.
"It was so scary", said retiree Tom Garcia (60) who was trapped inside his Mexico Beach home as water poured in to waist height.
For news organizations, Thursday was a race to get to Mexico Beach, considered the hardest-hit community by the strikingly potent storm.
"The damage to our infrastructure is the most widespread and severe we've ever experienced", city officials wrote in a tweet. "But never on top of us".
"Those who stick around to experience storm surge don t typically live to tell about it", said FEMA s Long.
"This morning, Florida's Gulf Coast and Panhandle and the Big Bend are waking up to unimaginable destruction", state Governor Rick Scott said.
"We are used to hurricanes in the Bahamas so we take them very seriously".
"It's going to be moving through quickly", Austin said of Michael.
The Florida National Guard has deployed 3,500 members for search-and-rescue and humanitarian aid, with assistance from National Guard units from as far away as NY and Kansas.
Michael's barometric pressure at landfall was 919 millibars, by that measurement the third-strongest hurricane to hit the USA on record, trailing on the 1935 Labor Day Hurricane and Hurricane Camille in 1969.
In Panama City, plywood and metal flew off the front of a Holiday Inn Express.
Friday, according to Austin, is going to be a dry day, mostly sunny with highs in upper 70s and winds northwest around 10 miles per hour. As the hurricane approached land, it intensified even more, bringing along an incredible storm surge and boasting 155 mile-per-hour winds.
Wakulla County issued a dire warning, saying it won't open any of its shelters - because they're safety-rated only for storms up to Category 2 strength, WFSU reports. "You want to check on things and begin the recovery process", Mr Scott said.
At least two deaths have been blamed on the storm.
3,500: Number of Florida National Guard troops activated for pre-landfall coordination and planning, with an emphasis on high water and search-and-rescue operations.