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NOAA maps show street-by-street views of Hurricane Michael's destruction

12 October 2018

When their house filled with surging ocean water, they fled upstairs.

Wind shear also failed to slow down Hurricane Florence, which peaked at Category 4 strength last month before it flooded the Carolinas as a Category 1 storm. The destruction along Florida's white-sand northern Gulf Coast was called catastrophic.

"Oooooh wow, our new house", she said, her voice shaking.

Rescuers will pick through the damage of otherwise thriving beach communities searching for survivors on Friday after Hurricane Michael, one of the most powerful storms in USA history, slammed into the Florida Panhandle, killing at least seven people.

In North Carolina's mountains, drivers also had to be plucked from cars in high water.

As of 9 a.m. EDT, Michael was centered about 40 miles (65 kilometers) west of Columbia, South Carolina, with winds of 50 mph (85 kmh).

Michael was forecast to have the power to uproot trees, block roads and knock out power for days by the time it hits Florida Wednesday.

Tropical storm-force winds extended as far as 275 miles from the center and flash flooding is still a risk for parts of the Carolinas and the southern mid-Atlantic.

Across the Florida Panhandle, shell-shocked residents returned home to devastation after Michael's fury, with similar scenes played out in several neighborhoods. It killed at least 12 people in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia, officials said.

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Six Florida counties remain under curfews, as work crews try to push debris off of roads so utility and emergency crews can start to fix the damage and reach people who need help after one of the most powerful storms ever to hit the U.S.

Families living along the Panhandle are now faced with a struggle to survive in a perilous landscape of shattered homes and shopping centres.

Mexico Beach and Panama City were among the most devastated areas.

Downed power lines lay almost everywhere.

One of those deaths would be a man killed by a falling tree.

And unless we change the rate of greenhouse gas emissions, we should expect hurricanes to intensify more rapidly in the coming decades, the scientific research group Climate Central said. It doesn't include losses covered by the National Flood Insurance Program.

Most of the rain was blamed on a low-pressure system off the Pacific coast, but Hurricane Michael in the Caribbean could have also contributed.

At least 11 people lost their lives in the massive storm.

An 11-year-old girl was killed near Lake Seminole, Georgia, when a metal carport used for boats was picked up by wind, crashed through the roof of a house and struck her in the head, said Travis Brooks, director of emergency management for Seminole County. A driver in North Carolina was killed when a tree fell on his auto.

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Four people died in Gadsden County, Florida, said a sheriff's office spokesperson.

The full extent of Michael's fury was only slowly becoming clear, with some of the hardest-hit areas difficult to reach because of roads blocked by debris or water.

More than 375,000 people up and down the Gulf Coast were urged to evacuate as Michael closed in. Around the same time, Virginia's emergency agency said more than 446,000 customers had no electricity.

But judging from the number of homes reduced to "sticks", he said "my sense is they are going to find more victims".

Long said the storm posed a direct threat to people who ignored warnings and evacuation orders on the coastlines, particularly given the threat of storm surge capable of tearing apart and flattening buildings.

Now they have the grim task of accounting for all who stayed behind.

National Guard troops made their way into the ground-zero town and found 20 survivors initially Wednesday night, and more rescue crews are arriving.

Numerous beach's residents followed evacuation orders.

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NOAA maps show street-by-street views of Hurricane Michael's destruction