"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.
As Michael moves into the Atlantic, the days of misery are far from over in the coastal cities left devastated beyond recognition.
In neighboring Panama City Beach, Bay County Sheriff Tommy Ford reported widespread looting of homes and businesses.
He said: "My expectation is if you are a health care facility you have a responsibility to take care of those patients".
DAY TWO: There are no words.
As the storm made its way inland, it caused havoc in Georgia, spinning off possible tornadoes and taking down power lines and trees. So many families have lost everything.
Rescue personnel assesses Mexico Beach.
At 5am (0900 GMT) today, Michael was over the Atlantic east of Virginia and moving away from the USA coast at the rapid clip of 29 miles per hour, the National Hurricane Centre said.
Mexico Beach, Florida, has been one of the hardest hit areas by Hurricane Michael.
"It was just a freak accident, I never heard of anything like that", her father, Roy Radney said. You can see trees split in half, flooding, and planks of wood - part of people's homes - just floating in the flood waters. Her father says she loved playing the trumpet, acting and singing.
'TRUMP ON HERO'S JOURNEY': Kanye West's free-style riffs dominate Oval Office
Earlier Thursday, Trump told " Fox and Friends " Thursday that West is "a different kind of guy and that's OK with me". Trump said the region was headed for war before he took over, and West commended him for stopping it.
Authorities said a falling tree killed a man outside Tallahassee, Florida, and an 11-year-old girl in Georgia was killed when the winds picked up a carport and dropped it on her home.
Three other people died in Gadsden County, Hightower said.
Thousands of residents in the Florida Panhandle are slowly returning to their homes and discovering that everything or nearly everything they owned has been reduced to rubble.
Mexico Beach, a gorgeous beachfront city, now looks like an apocalyptic mess, according to survivors.
Linda Clarke gasped repeatedly at the sight of her once new home in Shell Point Beach - now severely damaged. "You will not be able to get home if you live in or near the coast", he said. Despite the destruction, Rev. Luke Farabaugh and his congregation celebrated Mass on Thursday.
"We prepare for the worst and hope for the best. I ask all Georgians to join me in praying for the safety of our people and all those in the path of Hurricane Michael". "We had furniture in our house that wasn't even our furniture".
Forecasters have warned heavy rain could spark the same kind of life-threatening flash flooding in the Big Bend, Panhandle, Georgia and SC and have continued to warn Michael's storm surge is the most serious threat to the coast as the bend in the coastline traps destructive waves.
Long said that crews were able to get to some hard-hit areas in the Florida Panhandle on Wednesday night but that getting to Mexico Beach, Apalachicola and Panama City Beach was deeply challenging because of damaged bridges leading to those areas.
As Michael pushed northeast, emergency services carried out dozens of rescues of people caught in swiftly moving floodwaters in North Carolina on Thursday.
A water-level station in Apalachicola, close to where Michael came ashore, reported a surge of almost 8 feet (2.5 metres). But Nadine is starting to lose strength because its a much smaller storm that cant resist the calming effect of wind shear.
Human-caused greenhouse gases in the atmosphere create an energy imbalance, with more than 90% of remaining heat trapped by the gases going into the oceans, according to the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration. Storm surge is worse now than it was 100 years ago, thanks to the rise in sea levels. "So many lives have been changed forever".