Hurricane Michael left "unimaginable destruction" says Florida Governor

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HURRICANE Michael's pounding waves and winds have obliterated row after row of beachfront homes after the Category 4 hurricane slammed ashore on the Florida Panhandle.

Pecan, cotton, and peanut harvests were at risk as the risky storm plowed its way through Florida, Georgia, Alabama, and the Carolinas.

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

Homes destroyed by Hurricane Michael are shown in this aerial photo Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018, in Mexico Beach, Fla. When their house filled with surging ocean water, they fled upstairs.

By early Friday it wasn't almost over yet: a tropical storm long after Wednesday's landfall, Michael stubbornly kept up its punch while barreling over land toward an expected exit across the open Atlantic.

"All of my furniture was floating", said Ms Marquardt, 67.

"It was just a freak accident, I never heard of anything like that", said her father, Roy Radney. "It was terrible, and now there's just nothing left".

All told, more than 900,000 homes and businesses in Florida, Alabama, Georgia and the Carolinas were without power.

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The sheriff's office said that it also had three other "storm-related fatalities following Hurricane Michael", although it did not immediately release further information about what happened beyond saying that all four deaths were "in relation to or occurred during the storm".

Families living along the Panhandle are now faced with a struggle to survive in a perilous landscape of shattered homes and shopping centres. Downed power lines and twisted street signs lay all around.

Among those brought to safety were nine people rescued by helicopter from a bathroom of their home in hard-hit Panama City after their roof collapsed, Petty Officer 3rd Class Ronald Hodges said.

Numerous beach's residents followed evacuation orders. The elementary school, the flight line, the marina, the runways - all were devastated.

"I think you're going to see it climb", FEMA Administrator Brock Long said of the death count at a news conference.

And unless the rate of greenhouse gas emissions changes, hurricanes are expected to intensify more rapidly in the coming decades, the scientific research group Climate Central said. "So many families have lost everything", he lamented.

Brad Rippey, a meteorologist for the U.S. Agriculture Department, said Michael severely damaged cotton, timber, pecan and peanut crops, causing estimated liabilities as high as $1.9 billion and affecting up to 3.7 million crop acres (1.5 million hectares). It doesn't include losses covered by the National Flood Insurance Program.

Much of downtown Port St. Joe, 12 miles (19 km) east of Mexico Beach, was flooded.

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Sarah Radney saw trees falling down all around her grandparents' home when Hurricane Michael roared over Georgia.

In North Carolina, a 38-year-old man was killed when a tree fell onto his vehicle as he was driving, Iredell County officials said.

Michael then blew through Virginia, where authorities said five people were killed.

Some fear the toll can only rise as rescue teams get around storm debris blocking roads and reach isolated areas.

State officials said 285 people in Mexico Beach had defied a mandatory evacuation order ahead of the storm.

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.

Authorities say two others in his crew were seriously injured.

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Mishelle McPherson and her ex-husband searched for a friend's elderly mother who thought she would be OK in her small cinderblock house just 150 yards (meters) from the Gulf. Four people in Florida, a child in Georgia and a man in North Carolina also died.

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