Track Hurricane Michael flooding in real time

'Monster' Hurricane Michael strengthens on its way to Florida

From a helicopter, you can see numerous homes and hotels that populated this beachside town of about 1,200 are gone.

Long said many Florida buildings were not built to withstand a storm above the strength of a Category 3 hurricane on the five-level Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale.

Home after home was razed from its foundations in the town of around 1,000 people. Cars and SUV's were tossed from the highway. An entire house was thrown 100 yards down the beach, landing on its side.

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.

And amid the wreckage, the crew spotted survivors - people who rode out the storm.

In a letter to Trump on Wednesday requesting assistance, Scott wrote that the state had already spent close to $40 million on its response.

"Water will come miles in shore and could easily rise over the roofs of houses", he said.

DAVID PEATON: Storm surge is the No. 1 problem that you could see from these storms.

When visibility returned, "we realized everything was gone", Boutwell said, including his neighbor's beach home and vehicle. She had no interest in riding out a Category 4 in her mobile home.

More than 5,000 people were in 34 shelters that have been opened across the region.

Hurricane Michael claimed its first life after roaring ashore in Florida on Wednesday, flooding homes and streets and toppling trees and power lines in the Gulf of Mexico beachfront area where it made landfall as a raging Category 4 storm.

A state emergency-management official said all hospitals in the impacted region have reported some form of "critical failure" - water and sewage problems or infrastructure issues such as crumbling walls - that required patients to be relocated and medical field hospitals to be set up.

People in the crosshairs had to make last-minute preparations for the monstrous storm's arrival - and for how to cope in its aftermath.

Citing data from aircraft that flew in the storm, the hurricane center says Michael is becoming better organized and symmetrical as it moves north.

Associated Press journalists watched Michael roll ashore from hotels in Panama City and Panama City Beach.

As of 11 a.m. EDT, Michael was centred about 35 miles (60 kilometres) south of Charlotte, North Carolina, with winds of 50 mph (85 kph).

Vance Beu, 29, was staying with his mother at her apartment, Spring Gate Apartments, a small complex of single-story wood frame apartment buildings. Storm surge, with forecasts of up to 14 feet in some areas, remained a major concern. Soon enough, Mexico Beach's emerald waters and sugar-sand beaches were covered in a dark sea of debris, she said. The rest were missing roofs or siding. "She's my baby", O'Brien said, her face wet with tears. The docks are gone and several boats were capsized, including one belonging to her brother, she said.

RICK SCOTT: Hurricane Michael is a massive storm that could bring total devastation to parts of our state, especially in the Panhandle. "We didn't think it was going to be this bad".

"There's nothing left here anymore", he said of the town.

When she looks outside, she sees damage that reminds her of Andrew, damage that could take as long to rebound from.

He said strong winds picked up a portable carport Wednesday and dropped it down on the roof.

"The Gulf Power system held strong from Pensacola to Fort Walton Beach - a testament to the investments we've made to harden our infrastructure", Gulf Power spokesman Jeff Rogers said in a statement. "Could be even years". "You want to check on things, and begin the recovery process", Scott said.

"This was never in our imagination", he said. All the stores, all the restaurants, everything.

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