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After it ravaged the Panhandle, Michael barreled into south Georgia as a Category 3 hurricane - the most powerful ever recorded for that part of the neighboring state.

This season, however, the few sessions gleaned from ramped-up tropical activity have been found to be more superfluous than before, as nearly-Cat 5 Hurricane Michael-the second significant and potentially devastating storm to impact the right coast-made landfall on Wednesday near Panama City on Florida's Gulf Coast, bringing with it 155-mph-plus winds and torrential rains, after just a short window of quality surf.

The full extent of Michael's fury was only slowly becoming clear, with some of the hardest-hit areas difficult to reach with roads blocked by debris or water.

FEMA director Brock Long said in a Thursday briefing Mexico Beach took the brunt of the storm and is "ground zero".

At least three deaths were blamed on Michael, the most powerful hurricane to hit the continental U.S.in over 50 years, and it wasn't done yet: Though reduced to a tropical storm, it brought flash flooding to North Carolina and Virginia, soaking areas still recovering from Hurricane Florence.

"Hopefully they don't, but those numbers could climb as search and rescue teams get out", he said.

Tropical storm conditions are occurring over portions of central and eastern SC and will spread northward over central and eastern North Carolina this afternoon and evening. The storm is about 30 miles west of Augusta, Georgia and is heading toward the northeast before it goes off into the Atlantic. With a wind speed of almost 250 km per hour, the hurricane was just short of category 5 status, making it the worst storm to strike the United States since 1992 when Hurricane Andrew ravaged Florida.

WMAZ-TV quotes Brooks as saying a tree fell onto a home Wednesday afternoon and killed an 11-year-old girl.

A view of the eye of Hurricane Michael taken on October 10, 2018 from the International Space Station now orbiting Earth.

The storm was expected to move across North Carolina and Virginia and push into the Atlantic Ocean by late Thursday or early Friday.

Most of the full-time residents, he said, have some connection to the hospitality industry.

In areas that have been declared safe, officials are warning residents to drive only in the daytime, when they can see downed power lines and other hazards.

The storm made landfall near Mexico Beach just before 1 p.m. with a storm surge that was recorded at 8 feet in one place along the Panhandle coast. He said there were numerous trees down across the county. In Lynn Haven, north of Panama City, he described finding one woman curled up in a fetal position in a garage with a tree over her head - a "very risky, sketchy situation", he said. Roofs were peeled away and sent airborne.

Authorities say at least one person died, a man hit by a falling tree on a Panhandle home. Pine trees were stripped and snapped off about 6m high. Michael was the third most powerful hurricane to hit the USA mainland, based on barometric pressure.

An estimated 375,000 people in more than 20 counties were ordered or advised to evacuate.

The kittens eventually made their way to the Panhandle Animal Welfare Society, or PAWS shelter, in Fort Walton, where they are now adoptable, Marciano said in a tweet. "She's my baby", a distraught O'Brien said, her face wet with tears. Some 125,000 homes were left without power in Georgia and over 52,000 homes in Alabama as of Wednesday evening. And then there was the life-threatening storm surge.

Haley Nelson stands in front of what is left of one of her father's trailer homes on Wednesday. His office said he would tour the devastated areas next week.