Florida counting cost as Hurricane Michael causes huge devastation

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Michael smashed into Florida's northwest coast near the small town of Mexico Beach on Wednesday with screeching 250kmh winds, pushing a wall of seawater inland.

Michael was downgraded to a Tropical Storm on Thursday as it took its drenching rains to Georgia and the Carolinas.

One of those deaths would be a man killed by a falling tree.

In Panama City, 20 miles northwest of Mexico Beach, buildings were crushed and boats were scattered around.

Mexico Beach, Florida, looked as if a bomb had gone off as residents emerged to tally their losses.

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"I have had employees going to the communities where our kids live, going door to door and checking", Principal Britt Smith by phone.

The eye of the storm was 30 miles west of Augusta, Ga., as of the NHC's 5 a.m. EDT update.

CNN journalist Brooke Baldwin was left aghast at what little was left of Mexico Beach, Florida, as she viewed from a helicopter the devastation of the Florida Panhandle from Hurricane Michael, the third-most powerful hurricane to hit the USA mainland in recorded history. That would allow VDOT and utility crews faster access to and work at clearing the roads of downed trees and power lines.

Northam said the declaration was made in anticipation of the impact Michael could cause to the area.

Michael also disrupted energy operations in the U.S. 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. "My thoughts are with all those along with the Gulf Coast and my administration will continue our outreach to governors and state agencies where Hurricane Michael has produced widespread damage".