Hurricane Michael slammed into the Florida Panhandle Wednesday as the most powerful storm to strike the U.S. mainland in 50 years.
"We are catching some hell" was how a Panama City Beach resident who decided to ride it out described Michael as it made landfall.
Michael came ashore with winds just under a Category 5 storm. Its 249 kph (155 mph) winds blew sheets of rain sideways.
Trees and wires are down throughout Florida Gulf Coast towns. Many buildings have no roofs. Reporters on the ground said they could hear electric transformers exploding.
One storm-related death has been confirmed. A man was killed by a falling tree in Tallahassee.
Michael is a fast-moving storm that as of Wednesday evening, was down to a Category 1 hurricane moving into Alabama and southwestern Georgia.
Authorities say anyone in the storm's path who has not evacuated is better off sheltering in place.
President Donald Trump has been in touch with state governors and said a federal emergency team is standing by and ready to help with storm recovery.
Didn%27t evacuate? Take action now to survive #HurricaneMichael. Immediate threats are storm surge, flying projectiles, falling trees. Seek refuge in an interior room away from windows. pic.twitter.com/1IpMwEojJP— NWS (@NWS) October 10, 2018
Michael was the strongest hurricane to hit the Florida Panhandle in the area's recorded history, after causing destruction in western Cuba and parts of Central America.
At least 13 storm-related deaths have been reported in El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua.
Meteorologists say Michael got its fury from the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
The National Hurricane Center predicts Michael will stay a powerful and dangerous rainmaker as it moves across the southeast and up the mid-Atlantic coast before heading out to sea by Friday.
The end of the hurricane season is Nov. 30.
Some information for this report came from AP.
WATCH: Explainer: What is a Hurricane?