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Hurricane Michael : Panama City and Mexico Beach see devastating damage from tropical storm now tracking through South Carolina

At least six people have been killed by Hurricane Michael and more can be expected after the storm ripped through the US southeast, devastating communities in the Florida panhandle in a tempest that authorities say is the worst the region has seen since records began in 1851.

An 11-year-old girl from Georgia is among those who died in the storm, which levelled neighbourhoods in Mexico Beach and Panama Beach in Florida.

Michael has caused widespread damage, leaving more than 700,000 homes and businesses without power across three states and even blowing a train off its tracks in Florida with winds up to 155mph, according to reports. It has been estimated that more than 300,000 homes and businesses have been destroyed or badly damaged in Florida alone.

“So many lives have been changed forever. So many families have lost everything. Homes are gone. Businesses are gone,” Florida Governor Rick Scott said shortly before a planned tour of the devastation on Thursday. “Roads and infrastructure along the storm’s path have been destroyed. This hurricane was an absolute monster, and the damage left in its wake has yet to be fully understood”.

Michael, which made landfall as a Category 4 storm, was downgraded to a tropical storm on Thursday, according to the National Hurricane Centre (NHC). The storm still carries with it the potential for major damage and loss of life, with the NHC saying that ongoing flash floods and dangerous winds should be watched for in the Carolinas and southern Virginia.

After daylight on Thursday, residents of north Florida were just beginning to take stock of the enormity of the disaster.

Damage in Panama City near where Michael came ashore on Wednesday afternoon was so extensive that broken and uprooted trees and downed power lines lay nearly everywhere.

The storm was due to began to pass over the Carolinas on Thursday, just weeks after the states were battered by Hurricane Florence’s torrential rain. The storm is projected to begin moving eastward on Friday and then make its way out to sea in the Atlantic.

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During a campaign rally in Pennsylvania, Donald Trump promised to visit Florida soon. He said that “we will always pull through” and offered his “thoughts and prayers” to those affected by the storm. On Thursday, he described the hurricane as one of the worst the US had encountered.

“This one went very quickly, but its tremendous destruction in the areas and the path that it chose is incredible for destruction,” Mr Trump said on Thursday at the White House. “We have not seen destruction like that in a long time”.

If you want to see how the aftermath of Hurricane Michael came about live, please see our formerly live coverage of the impact below.

A second death has been attributed to the storm. A child was killed in Seminole County, Georgia, when a tree fell on their house, according to CBS News.

Maximum sustained winds of 115mph were recorded in that county last night, reports said.

The latest projection of Michael's path

The states are still recovering from the impact of Hurricane Florence last month.

Donald Trump acknowledged the hurricane at the start of his rally on Wednesday night in Erie, Pennsylvania, offering his "thoughts and prayers" to those in the storm's path and promising to "spare no effort" in the response.

He promised to travel to Florida "very shortly." and added: "We will always pull through. We will always be successful at what we do." 

The recovery effort in Florida is now underway, state governor Rick Scott has said.

The child who died in Georgia was an 11-year-old girl, according to WMAZ-TV.

Tyndall Air Force Base, in Florida, took a "direct hit" from Hurricane Michael, its chiefs have said.

A Facebook post described "extensive damage".

It said: "There have been no injuries reported on Tyndall at this time.

"Teams will work diligently to recover the base in the coming weeks. The storm brought down trees and power lines. It removed roofs from buildings and caused significant structural damage.

"The conditions of the runway is unknown at this time."

Base officials do not yet know when personnel evacuated before the storm hit will be able to return.

The base is located about 12 miles from Panama City. It is home to the 325th Fighter Wing which includes the US' cutting-edge F-22 Raptor fighter jet.

A collapsed building after the arrival of Hurricane Michael in Panama City, Florida (EPA)

A Florida resident who chose to weather the storm at home has described some of the stunning devastation it has wrought.

Sally Crown rode out Michael on the Florida Panhandle thinking at first that the worst damage was the many trees downed in her garden.

But after the storm passed, she emerged to check on the cafe she manages and discovered a scene of breathtaking destruction.

"It's absolutely horrendous. Catastrophic," she said. "There's flooding. Boats on the highway. A house on the highway. Houses that have been there forever are just shattered."

And Vance Beu, 29, said Michael's winds sounded like a jet engine. "It was terrifying, honestly. There was a lot of noise. We thought the windows were going to break at any time," he said.

The governors of North and South Carolina have urged residents there to expect more heavy rain and storm-force winds as Michael plows northward up the Atlantic seaboard.

The Carolinas are still reeling from severe flooding in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence less than a month ago.

Additional reporting by AP

Another illustration of the devastation caused by the hurricane, which was strong enough to derail a train.

Shredded trees, derailed train cars and a sunken trailer are seen in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael in Panama City (AP)

The National Weather Service has issued a series of tornado warnings for South Carolina.

Rick Scott, Florida's governor, has pledged emergency workers will be "aggressive" in their response to the storm.

He tweeted: "We are going to be aggressive with recovery and response over the coming days and will do everything we can to assist our communities that have seen impacts from this devastating storm.

"If you are using a generator, it needs to be at least 15 feet from your home and away from all doors and windows. Please stay safe! Restoring power as quickly as possible is a top priority."

Michael isn't the only storm milling around in the tropics.

The National Hurricane Center says Hurricane Leslie and Tropical Storm Nadine are no threat to land over the open Atlantic Ocean, but Tropical Storm Sergio is expected to hit Mexico's Baja California peninsula later this week and threaten the southern US Plains and the Ozarks by the weekend. 

The NHC has issued a fresh advisory notice for tropical storm Michael. It says:

• The storm surge warnings for Florida's Gulf coast has been discontinued

• The tropical storm warning for Florida and Georgia coasts south of Altamaha Sound has been discontinued

• "On the forecast track, the center of Michael will move through eastern Georgia into central South Carolina this morning, then moves across portions of central and eastern North Carolina and southeastern Virginia into the Atlantic Ocean by late tonight or early Friday"

• "Water levels are receding along the Gulf coast of Florida.  Along the southeast coast of the United States, the combination of a dangerous storm surge and the tide will continue to cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded by rising waters moving inland from the shoreline"

A state of emergency currently exists in a swathe of Georgia counties - a list that was expanded last night.

Some 1,500 National Guard troops are on standby.

The NHC is warning of "life-threatening flash floods" from rain dropped by storm Michael.

It said: "Michael is expected to produce total rain accumulations of 4in to 7in from eastern Georgia to the southern Mid-Atlantic states and 1in to 3in over the northern Mid-Atlantic states and coastal southern New England.

"Isolated maximum amounts of 9 inches are possible in North Carolina and Virginia. This rainfall could lead to life-threatening flash floods."

A snapshot of the destruction wrought by Michael in Florida.

A woman and her children wait near a destroyed petrol station after Hurricane Michael in Panama City, Florida

The NHC has released fresh imagery of tropical storm Michael as it tracks across Georgia.

Donald Trump has said he faced a "quagmire" as he decided whether to attend last night's campaign rally in Pennsylvania.

At a White House hurricane briefing he told reporters it was a difficult choice because "thousands of people" were awaiting the event.

He ultimately decided to attend, a move he criticized President Barack Obama for six years ago after superstorm Sandy hit the East Coast.

But the president was effusive in his support for emergency workers on Twitter. He praised Florida's highway troopers and urged residents: "If you see them, be sure to shake their hands and say THANK YOU!"

Additional reporting by agencies