Before and after images of Hurricane Michael destruction

Now their home is full of mud and everywhere they look there's utter devastation in their Florida Panhandle community: fishing boats tossed like toys, roofs lifted off of buildings and pine trees snapped like matchsticks in 155 miles per hour winds.

The strength and ferocity of Hurricane Michael has caught Florida by surprise when it smashed into the coast of Florida. A little more and he would have reached the most destructive of the 5th category, which is called catastrophic. "When the water came in, houses started floating in front of our home".

Thursday morning broadcast some devastating footage from Mexico Beach, near where Michael made landfall as a Category 4 storm Wednesday.

As Tropical Storm Michael continues to move through the Carolinas and back into the Atlantic Ocean, it may have significant after-effects on the Jacksonville area.

Michael is now centered over SC and is still a tropical storm after a long land journey over the southeastern United States. Downed power lines lay almost everywhere.

A month after Hurricane Florence's epic deluge, SC officials are more concerned about tornadoes than flooding from Michael. Similar scenes played out in parts of Virginia as the storm raced seawards.

More than 700,000 homes and businesses were without power in Florida, Alabama and Georgia early Thursday.

Michael sprang quickly from a weekend tropical depression, going from a Category 2 on Tuesday to a Category 4 by the time it came ashore.

In one community, Panama City, most homes were still standing, but no property was left undamaged.

Aluminium siding was shredded and homes were split by fallen trees. Hundreds of cars had broken windows, many turned askew by the wind.

The hurricane damaged hospitals and nursing homes in the Panama City area, and state officials brought in ambulances to evacuate patients.

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Many flights were canceled in the hurricane zone, and Amtrak changed some train schedules to protect passengers and employees.

"This morning, Florida's Gulf Coast and Panhandle and the Big Bend are waking up to unimaginable destruction", Gov. Rick Scott said.

Brad Rippey, a meteorologist for the U.S. Agriculture Department, said Michael severely damaged cotton, timber, pecan and peanut crops, causing estimated liabilities as high as $1.9 billion and affecting up to 3.7 million crop acres (1.5 million hectares). It doesn't include losses covered by the National Flood Insurance Program.

Number of storm-related deaths attributed to Michael thus far, including an 11-year-old girl who local officials say was killed when part of a metal carport crashed into her family's mobile home in Lake Seminole, Georgia.

CNN reported a sixth death, a 38-year-old man who died on Thursday when a tree fell on his vehicle in North Carolina.

The extent of the damage was becoming clear on Thursday as AFP reporters and photographers toured affected areas and U.S. television networks flew helicopters along the coast.

More than 375,000 people up and down the Gulf Coast were ordered or urged to clear out as Michael closed in. But emergency authorities lamented that many ignored the warnings.

Some forecasters said that Michael was likely the strongest hurricane to hit the Florida Panhandle in recorded history, and meanwhile, it was one of the strongest storms to hit the United States in history.

Now they have the grim task of accounting for all who stayed behind. "That's probably ground zero".

Mishelle McPherson and her ex-husband searched for the elderly mother of a friend.

"Don't think that you can ride this out if you're in a low-lying area", Nelson said on CNN. "Do you think it would have floated away?"

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)
 
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