Hurricane Michael rips through Florida’s Panhandle

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Since making landfall as a powerful Category 4 hurricane, Michael has left thousands of people without power, turned homes and marinas into rubble and killed at least two people.

When it made landfall Wednesday in the Florida Panhandle, Michael was packing 155 miles per hour winds, 2 miles per hour shy of a Category 5 storm.

"We try to restore power where it's safe to do so, but in the event of a natural disaster, we wait until the storm is out of the area", said Duke spokeswoman Shawna Berger.

Homes washed away by Hurricane Michael were shown in this aerial photo, today, in Mexico Beach, Fla.

"Blue skies, right in the eye", marveled Melendez.

Florida has some of the most stringent hurricane building codes in the country, but they apply only to new or retrofitted structures.

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It is expected to drop 7 inches of rain from eastern Georgia to the southern mid-Atlantic, and up to nine inches of rain in parts of North Carolina, the National Hurricane Center said.

Michael crashed ashore on Wednesday afternoon, carrying winds of up to 250km/h (155mph) and causing deep seawater flooding.

The winds were so strong they tore down a canopy over a Texaco gas pumping station in Inlet Beach.

Boutwell said he doesn't even know where to begin his family's recovery effort. A FEMA official was quoted as saying that Mexico Beach was "wiped out".

The concern was for people who ignored evacuation orders ahead of the storm and stayed put in communities that were demolished by Michael's ferocity on Wednesday.

- The human cost: Virginia had five storm related deaths, including two people who were swept away from their vehicles by floodwaters; four people were killed in Gadsden County, Florida, near Tallahassee; three people died in North Carolina, one man from a falling tree and two others whose auto smashed into a tree felled by the storm; and an 11-year-old girl in Seminole County, Georgia was killed when a carport blew through the roof of her grandparents' home.

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Almost entire blocks of small two-story beach homes were razed to their tile floors, likely by the storm surge.

Four other people were killed in Florida, including one man who was killed by a falling tree.

Senior said all the patients in the intensive care unit at Bay Medical Sacred Heart had been evacuated and moved to other hospitals with the assistance of ambulances. About 3,500 Florida National Guard troops were deployed, along with more than 1,000 search-and-rescue personnel, governor Rick Scott said.

"The Gulf Power system held strong from Pensacola to Fort Walton Beach - a testament to the investments we've made to harden our infrastructure.", said Gulf Power spokesperson Jeff Rogers.

The area is on the western stretch of what's called Florida's Forgotten Coast, so named because it doesn't have the heavy development of places like Panama City. "I'm hoping his phone is just dead and not worse", she said.

Some 375,000 people were ordered to evacuate their homes, but many residents found themselves trapped after they were caught unawares when the storm doubled in strength as it approached land.

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About 1.5 million homes and businesses were without power from Florida to Virginia on Friday, according to utility companies.

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