Photos and videos show mass destruction from 'Monstrous' Michael in Florida

Aaron in his damaged apartment after Hurricane Michael

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.

Michael roared ashore near Mexico Beach about 1 p.m. central time Wednesday, becoming the most powerful storm to ever strike the Panhandle and the fourth strongest to make landfall in the U.S.

Entire blocks of homes near the beach have been washed away, leaving nothing but concrete slabs in the sand. Rows and rows of other homes were turned into piles of splintered lumber or were crumpled and slumped at odd angles.

Home after home was razed from its foundations in the town of around 1,000 people.

Twenty miles south of Mexico Beach, floodwaters were more than seven feet deep near Apalachicola, a town of about 2,300 residents, hurricane center chief Ken Graham said.

More than 375,000 people up and down the Gulf Coast were ordered or urged to clear out as Michael closed in. 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.

The youngest of four until her father remarried and had two more daughters, Sarah loved being around her big family and made everything more fun, Roy and Amber Radney said in phone interviews with The Associated Press on Thursday.

Mishelle McPherson and her ex-husband looked for the elderly mother of a friend on Thursday.

They said recovery teams "have found widespread catastrophic damage", including roof damage to nearly every home on the base. It includes the privately insured wind and storm surge damage to residential, commercial and industrial properties and automobiles. "All of my furniture was floating", she said. "It was terrible, and now there's just nothing left".

The hurricane tore through Florida with powerful winds, uprooting trees, shredding roofs and turning over cars.

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"If you and your family made it through the storm safely, the worst thing you could do now is act foolishly", he said. Those numbers are added to the 350,000 accounts without power in Florida, and more than 160,000 in Georgia.

More than a million people are without electricity, and areas along the Gulf Coast and elsewhere report severe outages of cellphone service and other communications.

Storm: Cameron Sadowski walks along Panama City beach as waves crash in. Roofs were peeled away and sent airborne.

Another storm chaser, Mark Sudduth, tweeted: "Drove from Panama City nearly to Mexico Beach and I can tell you this is the worst damage from wind that I have ever seen!"

Footage of a Waffle House in Panama City, that was damaged after a large pole fell on top of it during Hurricane Michael. The damage at Bay Medical Sacred Heart included blown-out windows and a cracked exterior wall though no patients were hurt. Residents emerged in the early evening to assess damage when rains stopped, though skies were still overcast and windy. On Thursday, oil producers were checking production platforms and beginning to return crews to more than 90 offshore facilities that had been evacuated.

Michael's strong winds lifted a metal carport into the air before it crashed into a Seminole County, Georgia, house and hit the girl's head, emergency officials said.

Kaylee O'Brien weeps inside her home after several trees fell on it on Wednesday.

Forecasters said it could drop up to 18cm of rain over the Carolinas and Virginia before pushing out to sea Thursday night.

Damage in Panama City, just west of where Michael came ashore Wednesday afternoon, was so extensive that broken and uprooted trees and downed power lines lay almost everywhere.

The storm was officially classified as a Category 4 - on the verge of Category 5 - but was later downgraded as it continued its rapid advance up toward Georgia and the Carolinas, where cities still reeling from Hurricane Florence prepared for another onslaught of rain and wind.

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