Unscathed by Hurricane Michael, Lake City friends test their luck

Peer into Hurricane Michael's Mesmerizing Eye in This Eerie Time Lapse Video

At the center of powerful Hurricane Michael clouds circle a small opening of calm air. Credit NOAA

Some of the worst damage was in Mexico Beach, where the hurricane crashed ashore on Wednesday as a category four monster with 250-kilometres-per-hour winds and a storm surge of 2.7 metres.

"CBS Evening News" anchor Jeff Glor reports there is extensive damage in Panama City Beach, Florida.

The most powerful hurricane on record to hit Florida's Panhandle left widespread destruction and wasn't finished Thursday as it crossed Georgia toward the Carolinas, a region still reeling from epic flooding in Hurricane Florence.

One of the hardest-hit spots was Mexico Beach where entire blocks of homes near the beach were washed away, leaving nothing but concrete slabs in the sand.

Much of downtown Port St. Joe, 12 miles (19 km) east of Mexico Beach, was flooded after Michael snapped boats in two and hurled a large ship onto the shore, residents said. The National Guard entered Mexico Beach on Wednesday night and found 20 people who had remained in the town through the storm, the governor said.

At Jinks Middle School in Panama City, the storm peeled back part of the gym roof and tore off a wall.

Over Georgia, Michael will dump up to seven inches of rain as it continues on its path over the southeastern US.

Trees were stripped to stalks, roofs were shredded, trucks toppled and boats pushed into buildings.

Michael has since been downgraded to a tropical storm, with maximum sustained wind speeds of 50mph.

On Thursday morning, people were starting to get out and assess the damage from Michael, which is being blamed for at least two deaths as it moves over the Southeast. About 359,000 customers in Florida were in the dark early Thursday, according to the state's emergency management agency.

Florida Governor Rick Scott told the Weather Channel the damage from Panama City down to Mexico Beach was "way worse than anybody ever anticipated".

The hurricane, the fiercest to hit Florida in 80 years, pummeled communities across the Panhandle and turned streets into roof-high waterways.

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

The number of people in emergency shelters was expected to swell to 20,000 across five states by Friday, said Brad Kieserman of the American Red Cross.

Prior to making landfall in the US, flooding from Michael had already led to at least 13 deaths in Nicaragua, Honduras and El Salvador.

Michael also disrupted energy operations in the US Gulf of Mexico as it approached land, cutting crude oil production by more than 40 percent and natural gas output by almost one-third as offshore platforms were evacuated.

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