Drone footage shows seaside town demolished by Hurricane Michael

A woman makes her way to an evacuation shelter in Tallahassee Florida. Hurricane Michael has forced thousands of residents to flee their homes

At least six deaths were blamed on Michael, the most powerful hurricane to hit the continental U.S.in over 50 years, and by early Friday it wasn't over yet: a tropical storm long after Wednesday's landfall, Michael stubbornly kept up its punch while barrelling up the Southeast, dumping heavy rains and spreading flash flooding misery as far away as Virginia.

Florida governor Rick Scott said: "This morning, Florida's Gulf Coast and Panhandle and the Big Bend are waking up to unimaginable destruction".

The moment was captured on ABC News' live video, and it was also widely shared on social media, where many questioned the fate of the four-legged storm victims. "So many families have lost everything", he said. An 80-mile stretch of Interstate 10, the main east-west route along the Panhandle, was closed.

A crushed truck sits damaged after a the side of a house fell onto it following Hurricane Michael in the Florida panhandle in Panama City, Fla. on Thursday. Rows and rows of other homes were rendered piles of splintered lumber.

Authorities said about 285 of Mexico Beach's 1,000 residents failed to heed the mandatory evacuation order.

More than 375 000 people up and down the Gulf Coast were ordered or urged to clear out as Michael closed in. But it moved so fast and intensified so quickly that people didn't have much time to prepare, and emergency authorities lamented that many ignored the warnings.

National Guard troops made their way into the ground-zero town and found 20 survivors initially Wednesday night, and more rescue crews are arriving.

In all, about 2,500 of the town's 3,500 residents stayed put, with many caught off guard by the storm's rapid escalation.

Mishelle McPherson and her ex-husband looked for the elderly mother of a friend on Thursday.

"We had furniture in our house that wasn't even ours", Scott Boutwell said, explaining that when he returned to his home Thursday the only belongings he could find was a briefcase.

'Do you think her body would be here?' "Do you think it would have floated away?" she asked.

Thousands of people hunkered down in shelters overnight after fleeing their homes ahead of the storm.

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"It was just a freak accident, I never heard of anything like that", her father, Roy Radney said. "'A river just started coming down the road. It was terrible, and now there's just nothing left".

Many roads around the town were hard to access by Thursday, as fallen trees, power lines and other debris blocked the way.

"This is what we expect with storm surge and high wind events", said Craig Fugate, former director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and a former emergency management chief for the state of Florida.

In Panama City, most homes were still standing, but no property was left undamaged. Downed power lines and twisted street signs lay all around. Aluminum siding was shredded and homes were split by fallen trees.

Hundreds of cars had broken windows. Pine trees were stripped and snapped off about 6 meters high.

Trees were downed in Panama City, northwest of Mexico Beach, buildings flattened, boats and electrical cables scattered.

A resident surveys the scattered belongings at a damaged home after Hurricane Michael hit in Panama City, Fla. The damage at Bay Medical Sacred Heart included blown-out windows and a cracked exterior wall but no patients were hurt.

Florida officials also said they were moving patients from damaged health care facilities.

The 11-year-old girl died after the strong winds swept up a metal carport and blew it into her home, hitting her on the head.

Forecasters said it could drop up to 7 inches (18 centimeters) of rain over the Carolinas and Virginia before pushing out to sea.

The NHC warned that communities in north-west Florida and North Carolina faced the threat of life-threatening flooding as rising water moved inland from the coast.

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