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Although the full extent of the damage is not yet clear, one thing is certain: Hurricane Michael has been confirmed as the third-most powerful hurricane on record to hit the continental United States.

Gamble said that while her home fared better than most she, and many others, were not adequately prepared for the storm.

Search teams have been going door-to-door in Mexico Beach and other hard-hit areas of the county looking for possible storm victims who may have been trapped or killed.

Under a blue sky, Florida families emerged tentatively from darkened shelters and hotels to a landscape of shattered homes and shopping centres.

Utilities in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and Alabama reported that more than 932,000 customers were without power in the wake of Hurricane Michael.

The agency is working with the Florida Department of Transportation to clear the interstate which is the major east-west route across northern Florida and the Panhandle.

Michael was a Category 4 storm, just shy of a rare Category 5, when it came ashore. The first weather advisory about the storm went out on Saturday; days later, it became one of the most powerful hurricanes ever to strike the US mainland. For more coverage, also check out the photos and video taken by Times staff as they traveled into the communities affected by the storm.

Hurricane Michael's powerful winds ripped roofs from buildings - including a Panama City High school gym where some teachers and their families had taken shelter.

"Hurricane Michael can not break Florida", Scott said.

The federal government declared a health emergency: mobilizing workers, cutting health insurance red tape, and building care options where hospital can't provide them.

State officials said that by one count, 285 people in Mexico Beach defied mandatory evacuation orders and stayed behind.

"Roads are impassable, covered by water and debris, including downed trees and power lines".

One of the hardest-hit spots was Mexico Beach, where Michael crashed ashore Wednesday as a Category 4 monster with 155 miles per hour (250 kph) winds.

State and local officials have sought to avoid a repeat of problems past year that authorities say led to the deaths of Broward County nursing-home residents after Hurricane Irma. "There are so many downed power lines and trees that it's nearly impossible to get through the city", Apalachicola mayor Van Johnson said.

Trains on their side, landmarks destroyed, houses caved in, trees torn apart - Hurricane Michael tore through Bay County like an atomic bomb.

Hundreds of cars had broken windows and twisted street signs lay on the ground. Pine trees were stripped and snapped off about 20 feet (7 meters) high. "We've not seen destruction like that in a long time".

Some had no idea that scenes from all across Panama City and Panama City Beach had been playing out on national news and The Weather Channel all day Wednesday and Thursday.

As of 11 a.m. EDT, Michael was centered about 35 miles (60 kilometers) south of Charlotte, North Carolina, with winds of 50 mph (85 kph).

Michael, which struck as a Category 4 before weakening over land, also killed a man in Florida and a girl in Georgia., but the numbers will likely increase once officials navigate through the debris. One of the carport's legs punctured the roof and hit her on the head. A driver in North Carolina was killed when a tree fell on his vehicle.