Take a peek inside Hurricane Michael’s eyewall as it made landfall

Michael is the strongest storm since Hurricane Camille in 1969 and the third-most-powerful on record to hit the U.S.

Mulligan and her family rode out Hurricane Michael in their Mexico Beach condo.

The hurricane strengthened due to the warmer than normal water temperature in the Gulf of Mexico.

It was a category two hurricane by Tuesday, and a borderline category five on Wednesday morning, packing 155mph winds.

The four-star general added that some Florida residents may have been surprised by the rapid growth of the storm.

Michael reportedly killed at least 13 people in Central America: six in Honduras, four in Nicaragua and three in El Salvador.

- High tides: storm surge of 6 feet (2 meters) up to 14 feet (4 meters) forecast for Florida's Panhandle and Big Bend. Much of the affected area is rural and known for small tourist cities, beaches and wildlife reserves, as well as the state capital, Tallahassee, home to about 190,000 people.

Interested in Hurricane Michael?

"We are in new territory", Miami-based National Hurricane Center (NHC) meteorologist Dennis Feltgen wrote on Facebook. The hurricane hit the Florida Panhandle as a category 4 storm.

Florida Governor Rick Scott promised a strong relief effort from his administration Thursday after the state was slammed by Hurricane Michael, the most powerful storm to hit the USA mainland in 50 years.

In Georgia, an 11-year-old girl died when a auto port flipped into the air by a gust of wind landed on her home, Travis Brooks, head of the emergency relief agency in Seminole County, told AFP.

"We've been very cautious with sending our first responders out right now", she said. A few houses and other structures remain standing, but they're the exceptions.

From Florida to Alabama and Georgia to the Carolinas, over 900,000 homes and businesses have lost electricity.

Michael was also the most powerful storm to make landfall in the continental U.S.

Fatalities were not yet reported as the storm surge kept even rescuers from returning immediately to the Florida panhandle region that was hit.

A National Guard team found 20 survivors there overnight and more crews were working through the wreckage on Thursday.

"This is, unfortunately, a historical and incredibly risky and life-threatening situation", said Ken Graham, director of the Miami-based NHC. The storm is expected to continue weakening, but could regain some strength when it emerges over the Atlantic and becomes a post-tropical storm.

The same will not be the case for the near 300-mile stretch of coastline from Pensacola to Cedar Key, which attracts around 17 million visitors a year to its pristine white-sand beaches and clear, shallow emerald-green waters.

Footage of a Waffle House in Panama City, that was damaged after a large pole fell on top of it during Hurricane Michael.

Vanessa Coleman