Hurricane Michael leads to unimaginable destruction: 17 chilling photos

Each line is a different forecast model projection for the track of Michael later this week

Each line is a different forecast model projection for the track of Michael later this week

In its latest bulletin, the Miami-based National Hurricane Center (NHC) said Michael had become "an extremely unsafe category 4 hurricane".

A day after the Category 4 monster blew ashore along the Panhandle with 155 miles per hour winds, the Coast Guard said it rescued at least 27 people, mostly from homes damaged along the Florida coastline, and searched for more victims. What used to be a gorgeous beachfront city now looks like an apocalyptic mess.

Mexico Beach, Florida, is not just destroyed. "That's probably ground zero".

Much of Port St. Joe, 12 miles (19 km) east of Mexico Beach, was underwater after Michael hit with 155 mph winds, snapping boats in two and hurling a large ship onto the shore, residents said.

One objective as recovery got under way was to help people who could be trapped in various areas along the coast, he told a news conference.

At least four people have died in the state. Many crops, such as vegetables and cotton, may also be affected.

Tropical storm warnings were in effect for parts of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina. It was centered about 30 miles southwest of Macon, Georgia.

Briefing President Donald Trump at the White House, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) chief Brock Long said Michael was the most intense hurricane to strike the Florida Panhandle since 1851.

"I know you just want to go home", Mr Scott said.

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"This happened so quickly, we weren't exactly prepared", he said.

"I guess it's the worst-case scenario".

"Our lives are gone here". "All the stores, all the restaurants, everything - there's nothing left here anymore". Every telephone pole in sight is snapped in half. "Very frightful", Gunderson said.

What is the death toll?

A ferocious and historic Hurricane Michael reached the Carolinas after tearing through Florida and Georgia, demolishing homes, submerging entire neighborhoods and killing at least five people, including an 11-year-old girl. Tornadoes, risky winds and more flooding are possible in numerous same areas still recovering from Hurricane Florence.

Heavy rains are forecast for the Carolinas, which were drenched by Hurricane Florence last month.

The students and staff at Jinks Middle School have dealt with disaster before.

Michael's place in Georgia hurricane history has also been etched.

Brandon and Sydni Troupe were preparing for the grand opening this weekend of their new Panama City business when Michael hit. The debris-covered floor of the school's gymnasium is now fully visible from outside. On Thursday, oil producers were checking production platforms and beginning to return crews to more than 90 offshore facilities that had been evacuated.

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"Base leaders do not yet have an estimate of when Tyndall AFB will reopen", base officials posted on Facebook.

Florida officials also said they were moving patients from damaged health care facilities.

Communications outages and roads blocked by downed trees, strewn power lines and debris made it hard to get an overall assessment on Thursday of the damage wrought by Michael, but the initial picture was grim.

"We didn't think it was going to be this bad", she told CNN. No one has heard from them since Wednesday afternoon.

The marina her brother owns is submerged, she said.

Despite the widespread destruction, LaFountain said he believes most people will rebuild. "I don't suggest trying to ride out a storm". A falling tree killed a man after it crashed into his home in Greensboro, Florida, authorities said.

"Hopefully they don't, but those numbers could climb as search and rescue teams get out", he said.

"To my understanding, the hurricane was not directly in our path, but we would experience some heavy winds and rains which we did".

His house is 11ft above sea level and if the 4ft surge predicted for this part of the coast goes no higher, then he's confident his newly built home will survive.

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And unless we change the rate of greenhouse gas emissions, we should expect hurricanes to intensify more rapidly in the coming decades, the scientific research group Climate Central said.

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