Michael is leaving behind millions of people facing a daunting recovery in the days ahead

Michael is leaving behind millions of people facing a daunting recovery in the days ahead
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.

Craig Fugate, former director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and a former emergency management chief for the state of Florida, said this is what we expect with storm surge and high wind events.

Here, boats docked in Panama City, Fla., are seen in a pile of rubble after Michael passed through the downtown area on Wednesday.

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.

Michael charges into Southeast after slamming north Florida

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.

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.

Michael made history as one of the top four strongest hurricanes to strike the United States

There was widespread damage in Panama City, Fla., just west of where the centre of Michael's eye hit the shore.

Although most homes were still standing, no property was left undamaged and downed power lines lay nearly everywhere.

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.

Michael sprang quickly from a weekend tropical depression, going from a Category 2 on Tuesday to a Category 4 by the time it came ashore. It forced more than 375,000 people up and down the Gulf Coast to evacuate as it gained strength quickly while crossing the eastern Gulf of Mexico toward north Florida. It moved so fast that people didn’t’ have much time to prepare, and emergency authorities lamented that many ignored the warnings and seemed to think they could ride it out.

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.

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.

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A Panhandle man was killed by a tree that toppled on a home, Gadsden County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Anglie Hightower said. But she added emergency crews trying to reach the home were hampered by downed trees and debris blocking roadways. The debris was a problem in many coastal communities and still hundreds of thousands of people were also left without power.

Hurricane Michael carved a path of destruction across Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas. Jackson Proskow looks at the damage left behind

Vance Beu, 29, was staying with his mother at her home, Spring Gate Apartments, a complex of single-story wood frame buildings where they piled up mattresses around themselves for protection. A pine tree punched a hole in their roof and his ears even popped when the barometric pressure went lower. The roar of the winds, he said, sounded like a jet engine.

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

Authorities said at least two people have died, a man killed by a tree falling on a Panhandle home and according to WMAZ-TV, an 11-year-old girl was also killed by a tree falling on a home in southwest Georgia. Search and rescue crews were expected to escalate efforts to reach hardest-hit areas and check for anyone trapped or injured in the storm debris.

Some of the worst damage is plenty evident at Mexico Beach, a community located along the Florida Panhandle, where the storm first hit.

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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.

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.

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

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.