Michael was expected to be the strongest hurricane, based on wind speeds, to make landfall in the continental USA since Hurricane Charley hit Florida in 2004.
Material from The Associated Press was used in this report. Residents also lined up to buy gas and groceries even as evacuations - both voluntary and mandatory - were expected to pick up the pace Tuesday.
A storm surge watch is in effect for Anclote River in Florida to Anna Maria Island in Florida, including Tampa Bay.
The coastal city of Apalachicola reported a storm surge of almost 8ft (2.5m).
Most people had left Panama City Beach by midday Tuesday, but left behind a little humor at the Salty Dog.
"I didn't count on the wind getting that high, but we got lucky", he said.
And now Hurricane Michael is again threatening the region with severe impacts.
The NHC reported at 8 a.m. EDT (1200 UTC) on October 9, the eye of Hurricane Michael was located near latitude 24.5 degrees north and longitude 86.1 degrees west.
The strip of land is roughly 200 miles long and up to 100 miles long. But forecasters said its winds and outer rainbands would begin to start lashing the coast hours ahead of the eye. Bill Nelson, said a "wall of water" could cause major destruction along the Panhandle.
But some officials were anxious by what they weren't seeing a rush of evacuees.
Vance Beu, 29, was staying with his mother at her home at Spring Gate Apartments, a complex of single-story wood-frame buildings. The company said the reinsurance programs performed well after Hurricane Irma a year ago, which caused about $50 billion in damages in Florida.
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Twenty miles (32 km) south of Mexico Beach, floodwaters were more than 7 feet (2.1 meters) deep near Apalachicola, a town of about 2,300 residents, hurricane center chief Ken Graham said. "We've got supplies to last us a week. I'm expecting water in the house", said Scott Baghel. "We got everything tied down". "We thought the windows were going to break at any time", Beu said. "But in my experience, it's always blown way out of proportion".
Search and rescue crews were expected to escalate efforts to reach hardest-hit areas and check for anyone trapped or injured in the storm debris.
The hurricane damaged hospitals and nursing homes in the Panama City area, and state officials brought in ambulances to evacuate patients.
Tropical Storm Michael took its drenching rains to Georgia and the Carolinas on Thursday after devastating Florida's Panhandle, killing at least two people, reducing homes to rubble and ripping up power lines and tree.
Several people were taken by van from coastal Wakulla County to Tallahassee's Leon County to the north. Wakulla County's shelters are not considered reliable against storms stronger than a Category 2.
Michael could also dump up to a foot of rain over some panhandle communities before it sweeps through the Southeast and goes out to sea over the next few days.
The agency warned of possible flash flooding Thursday in parts of Georgia, the Carolinas and southeastern Virginia because of heavy rains from Michael.
"I know people are tired from Florence, but don't let this storm catch you with your guard down", North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said, adding, "A number of homes have rooftop tarps that could be damaged or blown away with this wind".
The speed of the storm - Michael was moving north at 12 miles per hour - gave many people a dwindling window of time to prepare or flee before the arrival of damaging wind, rain, and flooding.
Michael also wreaked havoc in the Caribbean. Cuban authorities said they evacuated about 400 people from low-lying areas.