Before and after images of destruction from Hurricane Michael in Florida's Panhandle

US Coast Guard  AFP | An aerial view of the devastation caused by Hurricane Michael in the town of Mexico Beach

US Coast Guard AFP | An aerial view of the devastation caused by Hurricane Michael in the town of Mexico Beach

"All of my furniture was floating", said Marquardt, 67. "It was bad, and now there's just nothing left".

Hurricane Michael will also cause almost one million people to be without power, not just on the coast but inland as well in Alabama, Florida, and Georgia.

Numerous injured in Florida were taken to hard-hit Panama City, 32 kilometres northwest of Mexico Beach. The hurricane hit the panhandle area with category 4 winds that caused major damage.

About 3,500 Florida National Guard troops were deployed to assist with evacuations and storm recovery, along with more than 1,000 search-and-rescue personnel, Florida Governor Rick Scott said. Families living along the Panhandle are now faced with a struggle to survive in a perilous landscape of shattered homes and shopping centers, the storm debris spread far and wide.

In this aerial view, storm damaged boats are seen in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael on October 11, 2018 in Panama City, Florida.

A psychiatric hospital in Florida is isolated after downed trees blocked roads around Chattahoochee, and a tree caused a water line to break. Aluminum siding was shredded to ribbons.

Hundreds of cars had broken windows and twisted street signs lay on the ground. Patients were moved out of hurricane-damaged hospitals and nursing homes.

Along the 322km Panhandle, Michael washed away white-sand beaches, hammered military bases and destroyed coastal communities, stripping trees to stalks, shredding roofs, toppling trucks and pushing boats into buildings.

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More than 370,000 people in Florida were ordered to evacuate but officials believe many ignored the warning. It was a powerful explosion of nature, one of the most powerful hurricanes on record. The elementary school, the flight line, the marina and the runways were devastated. "I don't know what I'm going to do", said Williams. "But first we need your help, your patience and your understanding that before you return we have to make sure things are safe".

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.

Twenty miles (32 km) south of Mexico Beach, floodwaters were more than 7 feet (2.1 meters) deep near Apalachicola, a town of about 2,300 residents, hurricane centre chief Ken Graham said. That includes grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-priced loans for uninsured property losses and other programs to help with recovery.

Linda Marquardt rode out Hurricane Michael with her husband at their home in Mexico Beach.

At least seven people were killed in Florida, Georgia and North Carolina from falling trees and other hurricane-related incidents, according to state officials.

In Seminole County, Georgia, a metal carport crashed through a roof, hitting a girl's head. A driver in North Carolina was killed when a tree fell on his auto. "I am declaring a state of emergency in order to provide state assets to Virginians and to assist our neighbors in states who are dealing with the devastating effects of this historic storm". Four of them drowned, including James King of Dry Fork, Virginia. "I'll never step back in there", she says through her tears.

Michael was also threatening to bring flash floods and wind damage to parts of North Carolina and the southern mid-Atlantic still recovering from last month's Hurricane Florence. Emergency responders weren't able to get there in time to save her, thanks to the debris clogging the roads.

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