Search intensifies for 1,500 still missing after Hurricane Michael

HECTOR RETAMAL

Search teams continued to pick their way through the ruins of Mexico Beach, the ground-zero 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.

The death toll across the South stood at 13, not counting any victims in Mexico Beach.

U.S. Army personnel used heavy equipment to push a path through debris in Mexico Beach to allow rescuers through to search for trapped residents, survivors or casualties, as Blackhawk helicopters circled overhead.

In Mexico Beach, a seafront town where the hurricane made landfall, houses had been razed by storm surge, boats had been tossed into yards and the streets were littered with trees and power lines.

MEXICO BEACH, Fla. Rescuers intensified efforts today to find survivors who might be trapped amid the ruins of a small Florida Panhandle community almost obliterated by Hurricane Michael, where one body has already been recovered, tempers are flaring, and the electric utility is warning that power could be out for weeks. Some residents stayed to meet it. Homes were pushed off their foundations and neighborhoods became submerged.

Hector Morales, a 57-year-old restaurant cook, never even thought of evacuating. "I'm just waiting", said Morales as he wonders what he will do next. "The officers, I finally made accountability of them all today, two days after the fact".

State officials said that by one count, 285 people in Mexico Beach defied mandatory evacuation orders and stayed behind.

Officials said more than 400,000 homes and businesses were without electricity in Florida and 20,000 utility workers had been deployed to restore power. It's unclear how many of them are missing.

Bill Shockey, 86, refused to leave Mexico Beach despite his daughter's pleas.

"Pine forests were no longer - they were all sticks that were broken in two", Nelson, a Democrat, told Fox News.

With a pocket full of cigars and his cat, Andy, Shockey watched the hurricane roll in.

"The wind was so hard that it was pushing water through windows and doors", Decambre said. "I think anytime a candidate has other responsibilities, it's important for surrogates to step up".

HECTOR RETAMAL
US hurricane leaves homes unmoored, power lines damaged

His daughter's home took in some floodwater but was otherwise unscathed.

Gillum added he's been unable to attend "dozens" of campaign events because of his attention to hurricane-recovery efforts - including an event in the Villages originally scheduled for Saturday and an appearance on HBO's "Pod Save America" scheduled for Friday. "Whenever they want, I'm going to move in with my son in Georgia".

Federal Emergency Management Agency chief Brock Long said he expects the death toll to rise.

"I hope we don't see it climb dramatically but I have reasons to believe we still haven't got into some of the hardest-hit areas", he said.

Authorities have set up distribution centers to dole out food and water to victims. This type of destruction we haven't seen since I was a kid and that was Hurricane Andrew.

President Donald Trump announced plans to visit Florida and hard-hit Georgia early next week but didn't say what day he would arrive.

"We are with you!" he tweeted.

On the Panhandle, Tyndall Air Force Base "took a beating", so much so that Colonel Brian Laidlaw told the 3,600 men and women stationed on the base not to come back.

Numerous beach's residents followed evacuation orders.

Major insurers like Allstate don't write many homeowners policies in Florida because of the high risk of hurricane losses, leaving the market to smaller companies and Citizens Property - the government-created insurance company for homeowners who couldn't get property insurance elsewhere.

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

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