'Unimaginable destruction': Hurricane smashes rows of houses

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The storm, which in less than two days grew from a tropical storm to a Category 4 hurricane on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale, tore apart entire neighbourhoods in the Panhandle, reducing homes to naked concrete foundations or piles of wood and siding.

The devastation inflicted by Hurricane Michael came into focus Thursday with rows upon rows of homes found smashed to pieces, and rescue crews struggling to enter stricken areas in hopes of accounting for hundreds of people who may have stayed behind.

More than 830,000 homes and businesses were without power in Florida, Alabama and Georgia on Thursday.

The Florida Highway Patrol has closed an 80-mile stretch of Interstate 10 to clear debris from Hurricane Michael. "It has been a year effort and I just didn't know what to do", Sydni Troupe said.

"Tropical storm wind gusts will continue across much of SC and central and eastern North Carolina, with sustained tropical storm force winds expected along the coast of the Carolinas", the agency said.

Amanda Logsdon begins the process of trying to clean up her home after the roof was blown off by the passing winds of hurricane Michael on October 11, 2018, in Panama City, Florida.

Less than 12 hours after the historic Hurricane Michael ripped a path through Bay County, residents were beginning to emerge, inspect the damage and, in many cases, tally their losses.

Florida officials also said Florida's big mental hospital in Chattahoochee is "entirely cut off" by land, so they're dropping food and supplies in from the air.

State officials said Mexico Beach was under mandatory evacuation orders but some residents made a decision to stay and try to ride out the storm.

Sustained winds have been measured at up to 155 miles per hour, which is at the extreme upper limit of what weather experts expect from a Category 4 storm.

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At least three deaths have been blamed on Michael, the most powerful hurricane to hit the continental U.S.in over 50 years. Videos of the damaged base show roofs ripped off hangars and a fighter jet on display toppled onto the ground.

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Miami Fire Chief Joseph Zahralban, leader of a search-and-rescue unit that went into the flattened town, said: "We have one confirmed deceased and are working to determine if there are others".

With a low barometric pressure recorded at 919 millibars, a measure of a hurricane's force, Michael was the third strongest storm on record to hit the continental United States, behind only Hurricane Camille on the Mississippi Gulf Coast in 1969 and the Labor Day hurricane of 1935 in the Florida Keys.

More than 375,000 people up and down the Gulf Coast were ordered or urged to clear out as Michael closed in.

"Hurricane Michael is an unprecedented event and can not be compared to any of our previous events".

Some people ignored the warnings, while others were not able as the storm rapidly intensified just before it hit the panhandle. Many residents said they either didn't have time to prepare or didn't believe it would be as bad as it was. Downed power lines and twisted street signs lay all around. Stands of pine trees were flattened.

"We haven't seen her since the tree hit the den".

Panama City port worker Josh Jackson, 29, had three cars damaged.

The video shows collapsed roofing and walls, scattered debris and mangled building materials. A driver in North Carolina was killed when a tree fell on his auto. The mental hospital has a section that houses the criminally insane, but they say the facility itself has not been breached.

As of 11 a.m. EDT, Michael was centred about 35 miles (60 kilometres) south of Charlotte, North Carolina, with winds of 50 mph (85 kph).