Widespread catastrophic damage in Florida — WHAT'S HAPPENING

Via NOAA

At least two deaths were blamed on the extreme storm front - the most powerful hurricane to hit the continental USA in more than 50 years.

More than 300 miles of coastline are now under threat, the National Weather Service has said. "So many families have lost everything".

The hurricane, the fiercest to hit Florida in 80 years, pummeled communities across the Panhandle and turned streets into roof-high waterways.

Gale to storm-force winds are predicted to hit parts of Virginia, North Carolina and the Delmarva Peninsula as Michael turns post-tropical.

As of 2 a.m. Thursday, Michael was about 25 miles east of Macon, Georgia, and is expected to move off the Mid-Atlantic coast by early Friday.

How many people have died?

On Tuesday, Gov Scott said he had activated 2,500 Florida National Guard troops.

Which areas are worst affected?

The storm will go down in history as the third strongest to hit the United States mainland in recorded history after making landfall Wednesday as a Category 4 colossus with sustained winds of 155 miles per hour - just 2 miles per hour short of iconic Category 5 status.

Storm surge is also inundating some areas along the Panhandle.

Twenty survivors were found in the town overnight, AP reports, but 285 had refused to obey warnings to evacuate.

"I haven't made up my mind yet, but I know some of my staff are going", said Dave Trepanier, owner of Firefly, a restaurant a block from the beach in Panama City, Bay County, an area where the hurricane is expected to come ashore.

Even before Michael made full landfall, it was whipping trees with its winds and had caused flooding in the town of Apalachicola, where more than five feet of water was reported, and in Port St. Joe. But "we have to make sure things are safe".

Michael, the third most powerful hurricane ever to hit the USA mainland, weakened overnight to a tropical storm and pushed northeast on Thursday, bringing drenching rains to Georgia and the Carolinas, which are still recovering from Hurricane Florence last month.

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Florida officials say one man died when he was crushed in an incident involving a tree in Gadsden County.

Travis Brooks, director of Seminole County's emergency management agency, told ABC News there was "complete and total devastation".

According to the Associated Press, six people were killed in Honduras, four in Nicaragua and three in El Salvador.

Michael has caused more than 500,000 power outages in Florida, Alabama and Georgia as of Wednesday night.

What is the storm doing now?

The Carolinas are still recovering from the floods of Hurricane Florence.

In Alabama, Gov. Kay Ivey has placed the entire state under an emergency declaration. A quarter of a million homes and businesses already were without power, and the number was rising rapidly.

The storm rotates due to the spin of the earth and energy from the warm ocean increases wind speeds as it builds.

Where has Hurricane Michael hit so far?

"Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face". We are also working with federal, state and local officials to provide public shelter and accommodate those evacuating from other states.

The central eye of calmer weather is surrounded by a wall of rainstorms.

This image captured by NASA shows Hurricane Michael, while still a Category 1 storm, as it moves through the Gulf.

The size of hurricanes is mainly measured by the Saffir-Simpson scale - other scales are used in Asia Pacific and Australia.

The region should brace for "major infrastructure damage", specifically to electricity distribution, wastewater treatment systems and transportation networks, Jeff Byard, associate administrator for FEMA, told reporters on a conference call with Reuters.

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