Hurricane Michael before and after photos capture utter devastation

A boarded up tourist shop in Panama City Beach Florida in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael

Hurricane Michael's violence was visible on Thursday in shattered Florida coastal towns, where rows of homes were ripped from foundations and roofs were peeled off schools by the near-record-force storm blamed for six deaths.

Storm surge warnings were discontinued for the Gulf Coast of Florida and the Georgia coast.

Thirty miles up the coast in Panama City, blocks of beachfront homes were obliterated and debris lay strewn aside overturned vehicles.

On the forecast track, Michael was expected to head northeast through Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia on Thursday as a tropical storm.

Florida Governor Rick Scott told the Weather Channel the damage from Panama City down to Mexico Beach was "way worse than anybody ever anticipated".

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"The roof fell in but we lived through it", he said.

Authorities said the state mental hospital in Chattahoochee, which has a section for the criminally insane, was cut off by land, and food and supplies were being flown in. Michael left a trail of utility wires on roads, flattened tall pine trees and knocked a steeple from a church.

Much of Port St Joe, 19km east of Mexico Beach, was underwater after Michael hit, snapping boats in two and hurling a large ship onto the shore, residents said.

"I have had employees going to the communities where our kids live, going door to door and checking", Principal Britt Smith by phone. "So far, everybody seems to be very safe".

There were at least 6 confirmed fatalities, including a Florida man killed by a tree that crashed through his roof, a North Carolina man also struck by a fallen tree, and an 11-year-old Georgia girl who died when a carport rammed the family's modular home.

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