Hurricane Michael brings 'unimaginable destruction' to Florida

S Hurricane Michael drenches Florida Panhandle

Hurricane Michael smashed into the Florida Panhandle on Wednesday.

Gov. Roy Cooper in a morning briefing with reporters emphasized that the former hurricane remains a unsafe storm, even though most of its destructive power has been spent in Florida, Georgia and Alabama.

Florida Governor Rick Scott told the Weather Channel the damage from Panama City down to Mexico Beach was "way worse than anybody ever anticipated". Only Hurricane Camille on the Mississippi Gulf coast in 1969 and the so-called Labour Day hurricane of 1935 in the Florida Keys were more intense.

In North Carolina's mountains, motorists had to be rescued Thursday from cars trapped by high water.

Wind speed is typically viewed as the best predictor of a storm's destructive potential, but studies have shown central pressure is actually a better indicator of the extent of damage a storm system is likely to cause.

It warned of possible flash flooding in North Carolina and Virginia and said the storm was still packing winds of 50 miles per hour.

As of 11:00, Michael was centred about 60km south of Charlotte, North Carolina, with winds of 85km/h.

Mulligan and her family rode out Hurricane Michael in their Mexico Beach condo.

They say the storm seemed to take on the appearance of a gray skull with a red eye in its infrared imagery as the eye began to clear out Tuesday.

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The third-most powerful hurricane to hit the US mainland in recorded history left a wide path of destruction across Florida and Georgia, destroying homes and shopping centres and knocking down trees, killing at least two people. In a beach townhome about 1,000 people, entire blocks of homes have been reduced to nothing but concrete slabs in the sand or piles of splintered lumber.

Mexico Beach is on the west end of what is sometimes called Florida's Forgotten Coast, so named because it is not heavily developed like numerous state's other shoreline areas, with their lavish homes and high-rise condos and hotels.

The category four storm - the second-highest on the Saffir-Simpson hurricane intensity scale - made landfall near Mexico Beach in Florida and was just shy of a rare category five when it came ashore. No injuries were reported, but there's roof damage to "nearly every home" on the base.

Brock Long, the administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said that he expected the recovery process to be challenging, and the death toll to rise once areas that are now almost-inaccessible are reached.

Army personnel used heavy equipment to push a path through debris to allow rescuers through, as Blackhawk helicopters circled overhead looking for survivors.

As it pummeled the Florida panhandle it destroyed thousands of homes and businesses and left hundreds of thousands of residents in Florida and Georgia without power. An 11-year-old girl in Georgia also died when Michael's winds picked up a carport and dropped it through the roof of her grandparents' home.

"Hurricane Michael can not break Florida", Scott said.

"PDA was in communication with the presbyteries that were projected to be in the path of Hurricane Michael", said Jim Kirk, associate for US disaster response.

"I'm very concerned about our citizens that didn't evacuate and I just hope that, you know, we don't have much loss of life", Scott told ABC.

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