The devastation left by Hurricane Michael in several states is still coming into focus, with coastal Florida cities destroyed beyond recognition, and homes, businesses and agriculture torn or swamped from Georgia to Virginia.
More than 1 million customers were left without electricity, and emergency officials have no access to many towns. The US death toll has risen to at least 17 — including five in Virginia and eight in Florida — and it’s expected to climb.
“I expect the fatality count to rise today and tomorrow as we get through the debris,” Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Brock Long said Friday morning.
Michael, which smacked Florida’s Panhandle as one of the most powerful hurricanes to hit the United States, left Virginia’s coast as a post-tropical low early Friday — and its trail of destruction will take weeks to take into account.
Sen. Bill Nelson called the devastation left by Michael “the worst destruction that the Panhandle has seen for however long that I’ve been living. It’s akin to Hurricane Andrew in 1992 where everything was leveled.”
Aerial footage shows coastal cities in the Panhandle, like Mexico Beach, wiped out. Search teams used dogs as they combed the area for people killed or trapped in debris.
One death was reported in Mexico Beach — that of an elderly man found alone, Mayor Al Cathey said. The man’s name has not been released, but authorities said his body was found several hundred yards away from his home.
City manager Tanya Castro said Mexico Beach won’t be up and running for 12 to 18 months.
Nelson said there are not enough resources — food, shelter and water — for those in Mexico Beach who stayed and for those residents returning. In Panama City, he said “there’s going to be a period of time that it’s difficult to get supplies in.”
Dawn Vickers rode out the storm in Mexico Beach, but her house and vehicles were demolished. Without cell phone service or transportation, she has been taking shelter in one of the few condos left standing, invited by someone she met at what’s left of a gas station.
“This has been the worst nightmare I’ve ever been through in my life,” she told CNN on Friday.
A psychiatric hospital in Florida is isolated after downed trees blocked roads around Chattahoochee, and a tree caused a water line to break. The facility is running on power generators, and helicopters have delivered food and water, the state’s Department of Children and Families said.
Benny Hobson sits in his recliner on Thursday, October 11, after losing the front wall of his house in Panama City, Florida. Hobson rode out Hurricane Michael at home with his wife and three dogs.