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Before-and-after photos show how Hurricane Michael laid waste to a Florida beach community
The third-most powerful hurricane to hit the U.S. 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 six people.

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.

The National Hurricane Center in Miami said early Thursday that the eye of Michael was about 90 miles (144 kilometres) northeast of Macon, Georgia and about 45 miles (72 kilometres) west of Augusta. The storm’s maximum sustained winds have decreased to 50 mph (80 kph) and it was moving to the northeast at 21 mph (33 kph). The core of Michael will move across eastern Georgia into Central South Carolina on Thursday morning.

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.

Damage in Panama City near where Michael came ashore Wednesday afternoon was so extensive that broken and uprooted trees and downed power lines lay nearly everywhere. Roofs were peeled away, sent airborne, and homes were split open by fallen trees. Twisted street signs lay on the ground. Palm trees whipped wildly in the winds. More than 380,000 homes and businesses were without power at the height of the storm.

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.

In Chattahoochee, Fla., a hospital with a section for the criminally insane was cut off by land and without phone service. Food and emergency supplies had to be flown in.

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.

Mexico Beach, Fla., as seen from a helicopter chartered by CNN on Thursday morning. (Screengrab: CNN)MoreThe small beachfront community, located about 40 miles south of Panama City, Fla., was where the Category 4 storm made landfall on Wednesday afternoon with maximum sustained winds of 155 mph, just 2 mph below the threshold of Category 5. It was the strongest hurricane ever to hit the Florida Panhandle, and the third strongest ever to strike the U.S. mainland.

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.

Homes completely destroyed. Refrigerators and toilets where the storm left them. Thousands of two-by-fours, chewed up and indecipherable. Refrigerators, toilets, staircases to nowhere and front doors 10 feet up with no way down. The neighborhoods along U.S. 98 looked like a childs playroom after a massive tantrum.

More than 900,000 homes and businesses in Florida, Alabama, Georgia and the Carolinas were without power on Thursday.

In this image made from video and provided by SevereStudios.com, damage from Hurricane Michael is seen in Mexico Beach, Fla. on Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018. (SevereStudios.com via AP)MoreSlideshow: Aerial photos show the devastation left in the path of Hurricane Michael >>>

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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

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Michael, the strongest hurricane to hit the continential U.S in. 50 years, has come and gone, leaving plenty of damage in its wake.

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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.

Tangie Horton shared video of the destruction left in the road after Hurricane Michael hit and tore down power lines, destroyed businesses, snapped trees, and piled debris on State Road 22 through Callway, Parker and Panama City, Florida.

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:

Me and my husband and my dog Babygirl watched as carports, roofs, and other things flew by us in the air, Horton said to CNN. 

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.