Clay Keels, left, visits his friend Bob Hurst, right, after his appliance store was damaged following Hurricane Michael in the Florida panhandle in Panama City on Thursday.
Michael made landfall Wednesday in the Florida Panhandle with maximum sustained winds of 249 kilometers per hour, putting it just below Category 5 status that tops the scale used to describe the strength and destructive potential of hurricanes.
Bu the full extent of the damage was only slowly becoming clear, with some of the worst areas hard to reach.
Tropical Storm Michael is racing across the Carolinas.
Florida Governor Rick Scott promised a strong relief effort from his administration Thursday after the state was slammed by Hurricane Michael, the most powerful storm to hit the USA mainland in 50 years.
There are now 495 search-and-rescue officers deployed or en route, as well as 110 firefighters and teams of medics, reconnaissance personnel and mortuary teams deployed.
"For North Carolina, Michael isn't as bad as Florence, but it adds unwelcome insult to injury, so we must be on alert", Governor Roy Cooper said.
As of 11 pm Thursday, Michael's core was located about 15 miles north-northeast of Norfolk, Virginia, and was moving northeast at 25 mph, according to the National Hurricane Centre (NHC).
Michael is now dropping rain along the Mid-Atlantic and New England coasts as it moves eastward over the ocean, with sustained winds that have strengthened to 65 miles per hour.
An 11-year-old girl was killed when a tree fell onto her home as brutal Hurricane Michael tore through Georgia, officials said Thursday.
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Brad Rippey, a meteorologist for the US Agriculture Department, said Michael severely damaged cotton, timber, pecans and peanuts, causing estimated liabilities as high as $1.9 billion and affecting up to 3.7 million crop acres (1.5 million hectares).
Although weaker as it pushed over the southeastern United States, the storm carried high winds and delivered drenching rains to Georgia, the Carolinas and Virginia.
Most of the full-time residents, he said, have some connection to the hospitality industry.
Jason Gunderson of the Cajun Navy said flooding and downed power lines made most streets impassible. Roofs were peeled off and homes split open by fallen trees. The Gadsden County Sheriff's office said that a man was found dead in his home in a small town outside of Tallahassee after a tree crashed through the roof. "I didn't expect all this", said Bill Manning, 63, a grocery clerk who fled his camper van in Panama City for safer quarters in a hotel, only to see the electricity there go out.
The hurricane disrupted energy operations in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico as it approached land, cutting crude oil production by more than 40 percent and natural gas output by almost one-third as offshore platforms were evacuated. Long urged residents in the Carolinas to heed warnings and take the tropical storm seriously.
Mexico Beach is on the west end of what's called Florida's Forgotten Coast, so named because it is not heavily developed like numerous state's other shoreline areas, with their lavish homes and high-rise condos and hotels. Michael was the first Category 4 hurricane to hit the Florida Panhandle. Storm surge is worse now than it was 100 years ago, thanks to the rise in sea levels.
Trump, who is expected to visit the region as early as Sunday, said he would be "totally focused" on the storm but would not cancel a Wednesday night campaign rally in Pennsylvania.
Several hours passed before emergency officials could reach the unincorporated area where the girl was killed, Brooks said. "They're not there", she said.
Based on wind speed, it was the fourth-strongest, behind the Labor Day storm (296 kph), Camille and Andrew in 1992.