NOAA's National Hurricane Center or NHC noted on October 9 that life-threatening storm surge, hurricane force winds and heavy rainfall can be expected along the northeastern gulf coast as Michael continues to move toward landfall.
Entire blocks of homes near the beach were washed away, leaving nothing but concrete slabs in the sand.
Long, the head of FEMA, said many Florida buildings were not built to withstand a storm above the strength of a Category 3 hurricane on the five-level Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale.
Some of the population centers that could witness some of the most severe hurricane effects include Fort Walton Beach, Destin, Panama City Beach and Apalachicola.
The area is known for its small beach towns, wildlife reserves and the state capital, Tallahassee. It weakened steadily as it traveled inland over the Panhandle.
The hurricane peak winds reached 110 miles per hour as of 11 a.m. Tuesday, just 1 miles per hour shy of Category 3, according to the National Hurricane Center.
The NHC said tropical storm Michael will continue to move northeast toward the Carolinas - as of 0900 GMT the eye was in eastern Georgia - until it moves off the mid-Atlantic coast by early Friday.
Jane Gendron of the American Red Cross says her volunteers just returned back to the north country after helping with Hurricane Florence relief in the Carolinas.
As of midday on Saturday, the storm had left at least 18 dead in four Southeast U.S. states and damages to communities in its path were estimated in the billions of dollars.
The monstrous weather system is forecast to become a major Category 3 hurricane by Wednesday evening and is predicted to bring four to 12 inches of rain with unsafe flash flooding with it.
"If you decide to stay in your home and a tree falls on your house or the storm surge catches you and you're now calling for help, there's no one that can respond to help you", Morgan said at a news conference.
The Panhandle suffered direct hits from Hurricane Ivan in 2004 and Hurricane Dennis in 2005, with the first destroying thousands of homes in the region.
"The wind that came through here was surreal".
A National Guard team got into Mexico Beach and found 20 survivors overnight, and more crews were pushing into the area in the morning, with the fate of many other residents unknown. Wind damage was also evident.
While hurricane-force winds of over 74 miles per hour will be confined to a relatively small area, tropical-storm winds of 39 to 73 miles per hour will occur over a much larger zone and could result in minor structural damage and many downed trees and power outages.
Forecasters expect Hurricane Michael to grow stronger still as it crosses the Gulf of Mexico on its way to Florida's Panhandle. The hurricane is forecast to hit the Florida Panhandle at a possible Category 4 storm. Only the 1935 Labor Day hurricane in the Florida Keys and Hurricane Camille in 1969 were stronger. Florida and Alabama have both declared states of emergency.
Trump issued an emergency declaration for Florida, freeing up federal funds for relief operations and providing the assistance of FEMA, which has more than 3,000 people on the ground.
Even before landfall, the hurricane disrupted energy operations in the Gulf, cutting crude oil production by more than 40 percent and natural gas output by almost one-third as offshore platforms were evacuated before the storm hit.