This is what Hurricane Michael looks like from space

Florida panhandle residents prep for Hurricane Michael

When will Hurricane Michael hit Florida? "Do not try to leave until the storm has passed".

Previous year saw a string of catastrophic storms batter the western Atlantic - including Irma, Maria and Harvey, which caused a record-equaling $125 billion in damage when it flooded the Houston metropolitan area.

The devastation inflicted by Hurricane Michael in the USA came into focus with rows upon rows of homes found smashed to pieces as rescue crews started making their way into stricken areas in hopes of accounting for hundreds of people.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio tweeted he was hearing "stunning" reports of damage, including that "Mexico Beach is gone" and the "damage in Panama City is catastrophic".

Under a perfectly clear blue sky, families living along the Florida Panhandle emerged tentatively yesterday from darkened shelters and hotels to a perilous landscape of shattered homes and shopping centres, beeping security alarms, wailing sirens and hovering helicopters.

The aptly named Lullwater Beach, just west of Panama City Beach, is quiet at the moment, but this whole stretch is looking at a possible surge of up to 13ft. A light pole toppled onto an SUV in the parking lot.

More: Waffle House never closes.

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper told residents: "I know people are worn out from Florence, but don't let this storm catch you with your guard down".

Perry and Mollie Williams were riding out the storm in their "fortress" home a block from the beach, their three cats and Rottweiler in tow.

"We ve been very cautious with sending our first responders out right now", she said. "We've had a number of them come into the Gulf, and either come to the left or the right of us".

Before even before landfall, Long had ominous words for those who stayed. He said people will "not be dragged out of their homes, " but anyone who stays behind will be on their own once the storm hits.

Florida Governor Rick Scott warned it was a "monstrous hurricane", and his Democratic opponent for the Senate, Bill Nelson, said a "wall of water" could cause destruction along the Florida Panhandle, the north-western part of the state. The fate of many residents remained unknown last night.

"It really started as a tropical storm, and then it went to Category 1, then it was Category 2 and before you know it, it was Category 4", O Shaughnessy said. "Multiple state and federal resources are staged and ready to respond as soon as it is safe". Another 3,500 National Guard members were also ready to deploy, he said. Accuweather predicted Hurricane Michael's total damage and economic impact will reach close to $30 billion, which would make it one of the 10 costliest hurricanes in US history.

The death toll from Hurricane Michael, which slammed into the Florida coast as a Category 4 storm, has risen to at least five, United States television networks reported Thursday.

Tallahassee, a city of 200,000, sits 100 miles east of Panama City. Eastern. Around midnight, the storm will have pulled out of Florida, heading through Georgia as a Category 1 and quickly losing steam.

Hurricane Michael is forecast to deliver catastrophic damage to Gulf County in the Panhandle of Florida, Southern Bay County in the Panhandle of Florida and Southwestern Franklin County in the Big Bend of are of Florida.

State officials issued disaster declarations in Alabama and Georgia and the storm is also expected to bring heavy rainfall to North and SC.

Forecasters say that 4 to 8 inches of rain is expected along the path of the storm, and 12 inches could fall in some parts of the Panhandle.

Bacon and Rice reported from Mclean, Va.

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