Full extent of Hurricane Michael's devastation becoming apparent

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Based on its internal barometric pressure, Michael was the third most powerful hurricane to hit the USA mainland, behind the unnamed Labour Day storm of 1935 and Camille in 1969.

An 11-year-old girl was killed in Seminole County, Georgia, after a mobile carport was lifted off the ground, slammed through a roof and hit the child, WALB reports.

Haley Nelson inspects damages to her family properties in the Panama City, Fla., spring field area after Hurricane Michael made landfall in Florida's Panhandle on Wednesday.

Early Thursday, Michael, now a tropical storm, was abut 30 miles south-southwest of Macon, Georgia, with winds of about 70 mph.

There have been an unknown number of water rescues Thursday morning in the mountain counties of Henderson and McDowell, according to Division of Emergency Management Director Mike Sprayberry. Thousands hunkered down in shelters overnight after fleeing their homes to escape the fast-approaching storm.

- Hurricane history: first Category 4 hurricane to make landfall in Florida's Panhandle since record-keeping began in 1851.

"The wind that came through here was surreal".

Consider what storm chaser Josh Morgerman tweeted Wednesday night: "It's hard to convey in words the scale of the catastrophe in Panama City". "It's unlivable. It's heartbreaking".

Michael's intensification in the hours leading up to Wednesday caught many by surprise.

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Now a tropical storm with winds of 50 miles per hour, Michael is expected to gain strength as it passes into Virginia and moves into the western Atlantic Ocean on Thursday night, bringing damaging winds and life-threatening flash flooding over parts of North Carolina and Virginia, CNN reported. The Carolinas are still recovering from Hurricane Florence less than a month ago. As for why Hanson and others stayed behind, Greg says he spoke to one man who "faulted the National Hurricane Center and the news media for not providing a more accurate forecast".

The campground had been full just before Michael blew in and covered it in 2 feet (61 cm) of debris and seaweed, McMillan said.

The small Gulf Coast community of Mexico Beach was known as a slice of Old Florida.

Al Hancock, 45, who works on a tour boat, survived in Panama City with his wife and dog. "My God, it's scary. I didn't expect all this", he said. "Insurers with the largest market shares in USA states to be hit by Hurricane Michael have considerable exposures, but these are manageable given each company's overall policyholder surplus".

The fierce winds and topped trees also caused widespread power outages. The storm, which killed two people, weakened in its intensity as it progressed to Georgia.

Bay County was one of 22 in Florida that issued orders urging about 375,000 residents to evacuate ahead of the storm. Reaching the worst-hit areas wasn't easy: Authorities closed Interstate 10, the main east-west route along Florida's Panhandle, for 80 miles to clear debris, the Florida Highway Patrol said. "If the house and the cars are destroyed they can be replaced, but my niece needs her dad - and as much as I sometimes can't stand him, I would do anything to just know he's OK", McCall said.

FEMA head Brock Long acknowledged that early evacuation efforts in the area were slow, in comparison to how quickly the hurricane intensified. This storm could also have some profound effects on how the sector thinks about (and models) loss potential from Gulf Coast hurricanes, as a result of the perhaps unexpected pre-landfall intensification and distance inland that hurricane force winds were recorded.

In north Florida, Michael battered the shoreline with sideways rain, powerful gusts and crashing waves, swamping streets and docks, flattening trees, shredding awnings and peeling away shingles.

It was the "worst storm" that part of the state has ever seen, Gov. Rick Scott said.