Death Toll From Michael Seen Rising as Florida Towns Remain Cut Off

Lester Mason
October 14, 2018

FEMA's Long urged communities such as Mexico Beach, where many homes were pulverized by 12 to 14 feet (3.7 to 4.3 meters) of storm surge, to rebuild to withstand future storms.

Florida Governor Rick Scott said as he visited Mexico Beach on Friday and "It was like a bomb went off. We do not have a count, but we are working to identify them".

Zahralban spoke as his team - which included a dog - was winding down its two-day search of Mexico Beach, the town of about 1,000 people that was almost wiped off the map when Michael blew ashore there on Wednesday with devastating 155 miles per hour winds. In its violent battering of the southeastern U.S., Hurricane Michael left floodwaters, wind-wrecked buildings and power outages in its wake.

As the catastrophic damage across the Florida Panhandle came into view 48 hours after the hurricane struck, there was little doubt the death toll would rise. But authorities scrapped plans to set up a temporary morgue, suggesting they had yet to see mass casualties.

Relatives of people who defied evacuation orders in Mexico Beach, a town where the storm obliterated shorefront neighborhoods, also posted messages on the Facebook pages of law enforcement pleading for help finding relatives. Whether any of them got out at some point was unclear.

In Panama City alone, the fire department has received more than 200 calls asking it to check on people there, but the department hasn't had the resources to do so for all of them, Panama City Fire Chief Alex Baird said. But with cellphone service out across vast swaths of the Florida Panhandle, officials said it is possible that some of those unaccounted for are safe and just haven't been able to contact friends or family to let them know.

By Friday, authorities had begun setting up distribution centres to dole out food and water to victims, who just were coming to grips with the brutal realities of their situation. While we've grown used to many "false alarms" in terms of precisely how bad approaching storms may be, Michael overperformed by a significant margin.

While most residents fled ahead of the storm's arrival, others stayed to face the hurricane.

"I am totally shocked what this has done to our entire town", said Mayor Al Cathey, who barely recognizes his hometown. "I don't know what I'm going to do", he said. "If we're going to rebuild, do it right".

In North Carolina, a 38-year-old man died when a large tree fell on his vehicle Thursday on USA 64 east of Statesville, Iredell County Fire Marshal David Souther said.

Among those brought to safety were nine people rescued by helicopter from a bathroom of their home in hard-hit Panama City after their roof collapsed, Petty Officer 3rd Class Ronald Hodges said.

A bit of good news emerged around noon on Friday in Tallahassee, where the storm felled thousands of its famous oaks and other trees, damaging houses and blocking roads.

"We are with you!" he tweeted. The current death toll from the storm is 11, although emergency responders say that number could still rise.

"Everything is time-consuming", said Capt. Ignatius Carroll, of the South Florida Urban Search and Rescue task force. "We will not rest or waver until the job is done and the recovery is complete".

"We still haven't gotten into the hardest-hit areas", he said, adding with frustration: "Very few people live to tell what it's like to experience storm surge, and unfortunately in this country we seem to not learn the lesson".

Long expressed worry that people have suffered "hurricane amnesia".

"When state and local officials tell you to get out, dang it, do it. Get out", he said.

Many people who evacuated the Florida Panhandle now have nowhere to work or live.

A small "ride-out" team that hunkered down as the hurricane's destructive eyewall passed directly overhead ventured out to find almost every building severely damaged, many a complete loss.

The primary school, the flight line, the marina and the runways were devastated.

A psychiatric hospital in Florida is isolated after downed trees blocked roads around Chattahoochee, and a tree caused a water line to break.

On Friday morning, George Coaker was getting ready to set up a generator for some temporary relief.

"It's total devastation - no power, no water, no communication", she said.

"So many lives have been changed forever".

The daily paper, the Panama City News Herald, still has no power.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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