Residents refused to evacuate when Hurricane Michael struck the US South-East
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Hurricane Michael has smashed many homes to pieces, and rescue crews have begun making their way into the stricken areas in hopes of finding hundreds of people who may have decided to stay behind - despite explicit orders to evacuate.
Hurricane Michael, the most powerful hurricane to hit the continental U.S. in over 50 years, has caused at least three deaths so far. It has been reduced to a tropical storm, but still brought flash flooding to North Carolina and Virginia, which are areas still recovering from Hurricane Florence.
Families living along the Florida Panhandle return from shelters and hotels to a landscape of shattered homes and shopping centers, beeping security alarms, sirens and helicopters.
Governor Rick Scott said the Panhandle woke up to "unimaginable destruction."
"So many lives have been changed forever. So many families have lost everything," he said.
The full extent of Michael's fury was only slowly becoming clear, with some of the hardest-hit areas difficult to reach because of roads blocked by debris or water. An 80-mile stretch of Interstate 10, the main east-west route along the Panhandle, was closed.
National Guard troops made their way into the ground-zero town and found 20 survivors Wednesday night, and more rescue crews were pushing into the area, not knowing how many to even look for.
More than 375,000 people up and down the Gulf Coast were ordered or urged to evacuate because of Hurricane Michael. But emergency authorities now claim many people ignored the warnings.
State officials said 285 people in Mexico Beach had refused to follow a mandatory evacuation order:
"Why people didn't evacuate is something we should be studying," said Craig Fugate, former director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and a former Florida state emergency management chief. "Is there more the government can do? But we ask that every time."
Some of the worst damage was in Mexico Beach, where the hurricane was a Category 4 with 155 mph (250 kph) winds and huge waves of 9 feet (2.7 meters).
Over 900,000 homes and businesses in Florida, Alabama, Georgia and the Carolinas were without power.
The Coast Guard said it rescued at least 27 people before and after the hurricane came ashore, mostly from homes along the Florida coastline, searching for even more victims.
The hurricane also damaged hospitals and nursing homes in the Panama City area. Officials worked to evacuate hundreds of patients. No patients were hurt, the hospital said.
In the North Carolina's mountains, people had to be rescued from cars stuck in high water.
"For North Carolina, Michael isn't as bad as Florence, but it adds unwelcome insult to injury, so we must be on alert," Governor Roy Cooper said.