Hurricane Michael leaves trail of devastation in Florida

Jason lives in Panama City Florida and stayed during the hurricane

Hurricane Michael's assault on the Florida Panhandle left nothing more than empty foundations and heaps of rubble in some parts of the small towns it crashed into with near-record force.

Michael blew ashore near the small Florida Panhandle town of Mexico Beach on Wednesday afternoon as one of the most powerful storms in US history, with winds of up to 155 miles per hour (250 km per hour).

The full extent of Michael's fury was only slowly becoming clear, with some of the hardest-hit areas difficult to reach because of roads blocked by debris or water.

FEMA director Brock Long said Thursday Mexico Beach, Fla., took the brunt of the storm and is "ground zero".

Based on its internal barometric pressure, Michael was the third most powerful hurricane to hit the USA mainland, behind the unnamed Labour Day storm of 1935 and Camille in 1969.

The storm came ashore as a Category 4 hurricane on the five-step Saffir-Simpson wind scale.

Michael's core will enter South Carolina Thursday morning before driving into central and eastern North Carolina by about 2 p.m., according to the NHC. It was heading north-north-east at 22kmh with maximum sustained winds down to 240kmh, the hurricane centre said.

The Coast Guard said it rescued at least 27 people before and after the hurricane came ashore, mostly from homes along the Florida coastline, and searched for more victims.

An 11-year-old girl also died in Seminole County, Georgia, after a tree fell on a home, according to local emergency management officials.

Just as Northern politicians are judged on how they handle snowstorms, their Southern counterparts are watched closely for how they deal with hurricanes.

On Thursday, authorities and residents will begin to discover the full extent of Michael's destruction in Florida and Georgia while the Carolinas brace for possible flooding, tornadoes and risky winds in numerous same areas still recovering from Hurricane Florence flooding. "So many families have lost everything", he said.

Downed power lines lay almost everywhere.

The video shows flattened homes, roofs ripped apart, and debris scattered throughout Mexico Beach.

Thousands of law enforcement officers and search and rescue teams rolled out in its wake to find survivors amid the wreckage of homes where people defied evacuation orders.

Authorities have attributed one death to the storm after a tree fell on a man in the Florida capital Tallahassee. Roofs were peeled away and sent airborne.

Kaylee O'Brien was crying as she sorted through the remains of the apartment she shared with three roommates at Whispering Pines apartments, where the smell of broken pine trees was thick in the air.

Harvey and Michael didn't strengthen quite so much, so fast, but they rapidly intensified in the crucial hours before making their final continental USA landfalls.

Michael rapidly intensified as it churned north over the Gulf of Mexico and caught many by surprise.

"My home was built in 1962 is the only one with a solid roof left", Golding said.

In Wakulla County, the sheriff's office made a list of people who chose to ride out the storm and will begin the process of checking on them Thursday, sheriff's captain Chris Savary said. An eight-foot storm surge inundated neighborhoods, covering some homes to the rooftop. It's here where an 11-year-old girl was killed during the storm. She's desperate for news about the condition of her home, but she can't reach anyone, she says.

State emergency officials said Friday morning that they have canceled, for now, plans to set up a temporary mortuary unit in the Panhandle.

At a midterm election rally in Pennsylvania on Wednesday night, Trump offered his "thoughts and prayers" to those in the path of the storm and said he would be visiting Florida soon.

And, impressively, Michael's top sustained winds are growing again, to near 65 miles per hour (100 kph) at 5 a.m., with forecasters saying it will grow stronger still.

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