Supercharged by abnormally warm waters in the Gulf of Mexico, Hurricane Michael slammed into the Florida Panhandle with terrifying winds of 250 km/h Wednesday, splintering homes and submerging neighbourhoods before continuing its march inland.
Michael charges into Southeast after slamming north Florida
Here, boats docked in Panama City, Fla., are seen in a pile of rubble after Michael passed through the downtown area on Wednesday.
Michael finally weakened to a tropical storm on Thursday, but was still menacing the Southeast with heavy rains, blustery winds and possible spinoff tornadoes, soaking areas swamped by epic flooding last month from Hurricane Florence.
Video: Help From South Florida Is On The Way
There was widespread damage in Panama City, Fla., just west of where the centre of Michael's eye hit the shore.
Its gone: Mexico Beach, Fla., left in ruins by Hurricane Michael
Although most homes were still standing, no property was left undamaged and downed power lines lay nearly everywhere.
CTVs Tom Walters reports from Mexico Beach, Fla., the town that took the brunt of whats being called the most powerful storm to hit the continental U.S. in 50 years.
Roofs were peeled away and sent airborne. Aluminum siding was shredded to ribbons. Homes were split open by fallen trees. Hundreds of cars had broken windows, many turned askew by the wind.
Here, Panama City resident Amanda Logsdon begins the process of trying to clean up her home after the roof was blown off by the passing winds on Thursday.
Video: Georgia begins damage tally after Michaels hit
Michael washed away white-sand beaches, hammered military bases and destroyed coastal communities, stripping trees to stalks, toppling trucks and pushing boats into buildings.
More than 900,000 homes and businesses in Florida, Alabama, Georgia and the Carolinas were without power on Thursday.
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Hurricane Michael carved a path of destruction across Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas. Jackson Proskow looks at the damage left behind
Michael, the strongest hurricane to hit the continential U.S in. 50 years, has come and gone, leaving plenty of damage in its wake.
Devastated homes, toppled trees mark Michaels path over Florida
Some of the worst damage is plenty evident at Mexico Beach, a community located along the Florida Panhandle, where the storm first hit.
The system, which has been blamed for at least seven deaths, hit the mainland as a Category 4 hurricane with winds reaching maximum speeds of 250 km/h and a storm surge reaching up to 2.7 metres high.
Satellite images provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) show a path of destruction right through Mexico Beach, with buildings levelled and debris strewn far and wide.
At least six dead as storm blows through Carolinas – as it happened
Those images form a marked contrast with what Mexico Beach looked like before the storm hit: an idyllic seaside town with sand, palm trees and homes looking out to the Gulf of Mexico.
After Hurricane Michael barreled through Florida bringing chaos and terror with it, survivors are sharing their harrowing stories.
Here are some before-and-after photos that illustrate the damage in Mexico Beach — swipe right for before, swipe left for after:
READ MORE: Michael becomes strongest hurricane to hit continental U.S. in 50 years, at least 7 killed
Associated Press writers Tamara Lush in St. Petersburg, Florida; Terry Spencer in Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Freida Frisaro in Miami; Brendan Farrington in St. Marks, Florida; Russ Bynum in Keaton Beach, Florida; Jonathan Drew in Raleigh, North Carolina, and Seth Borenstein in Kensington, Maryland, contributed to this story.
Rescue personnel spent Thursday looking for survivors amid the damage, using drones, dogs and GPS to find them.
“We prepare for the worst and hope for the best,” said Stephanie Palmer, a FEMA firefighter and rescuer.