"It was terrible, and now there's just nothing left".
Based on its internal barometric pressure, Michael was the third most powerful hurricane to hit the U.S. mainland, behind the unnamed Labor Day storm of 1935 and Camille in 1969. High winds, downed trees, streets inundated by rising waters and multiple rescues of motorists from waterlogged cars played out in spots around Virginia and neighboring North Carolina.
As Michael plows northward up the Atlantic seaboard, the governors of North and SC urged residents to brace for more heavy rain and storm-force winds.
"Our biggest thing is the downed lines and the downed trees", said Apalachicola Mayor Van Johnson.
On Friday morning, the death toll from the storm was updated to 11 across the southeast, including five in Virginia, according to a tweet from the Virginia Dept. of Emergency Management.
Blocks and blocks of homes were demolished, reduced to piles of splintered lumber or mere concrete slabs, by the most powerful hurricane to hit the continental U.S.in almost 50 years.
Thousands of residents in the Florida Panhandle are slowly returning to their homes and discovering that everything or nearly everything they owned has been reduced to rubble.
"You can't make sense of it, but what you do is you take the situation, and what we have to make certain that our kids know is that we must be resilient", Smith said.
Some residents arrived Friday with vans or moving trucks, hoping to recover as many personal effects from their splintered homes as they could. Twisted street signs lay on the ground. Roofs were peeled away, sent airborne, and homes were split open by fallen trees.
Long said many Florida buildings were not built to withstand a storm above the strength of a Category 3 hurricane on the five-level Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. "Storm surge causes the most amount of loss of life".
Residents like Scott Boutwell are in shock.
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An insurance company that produces models for catastrophes estimated the damage at $8 billion. Wind damage was also evident.
Six deaths have been confirmed - four in Florida, one in Georgia and one in North Carolina.
At least seven people were killed by falling trees and other hurricane-related incidents in Florida, Georgia and North Carolina, according to state officials.
Social media websites were filled with messages from people trying to reach missing family members in Florida's Bay and Gulf Counties. But it moved fast and intensified quickly, and emergency authorities lamented that many people ignored the warnings.
Several Florida Panhandle communities were completely destroyed as a result of Hurricane Michael's wrath, which claimed the lives of at least 11 people. Nine people had to be rescued by helicopter from a bathroom of a home in hard-hit Panama City after their roof collapsed, Petty Officer 3rd Class Ronald Hodges said.
More than 375,000 people along the Gulf Coast were given mandatory evacuation orders, but many people defied the calls.
Stephanie Palmer and Diego Ortiz with Urban Search and Rescue Florida Task Force 2 raise an American flag in the heavily damaged city of Mexico Beach on Thursday.
A National Guard team went into the area and found 20 survivors Wednesday night, and more crews pushed into the stricken zone on Thursday. But the fate of many residents was unknown.
Mishelle McPherson's elderly neighbour was among those who stayed behind. The woman lived in a small cinderblock house about 150 yards from the Gulf and thought she would be okay.
A little further on, and a woman, accompanied by a friend, is sifting through the remains of her home, loading what she can salvage into the boot of a vehicle.
"Do you think her body would be here?".