16 deaths in vast trail of destruction after Hurricane Michael hits Florida

Hurricane Michael Slams Into Florida's Panhandle Region

The death toll across the South stood at 13, not counting any victims in Mexico Beach. Officials predicted rebuilding costs in the billions.

A search-and-rescue operation led by FEMA did not find any fatalities in Mexico Beach as of Friday morning, but Donald Walker, the town's interim fire chief, said that is likely to change.

On Saturday, emergency crews will continue descending into the coastal cities in the Panhandle, like Mexico Beach, that were wiped out and will try to reach remote areas that were isolated by downed trees and power poles.

In this aerial view, storm damaged boats are seen in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael on October 11, 2018 in Panama City, Florida.

"People have no idea how hard Hurricane Michael has hit the great state of Georgia", he said on Twitter.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott has called up 4,000 members of the state's national guard to deal with the deadly storm, adding 500 more on Saturday, and almost 2,000 law-enforcement officials have been sent into the Panhandle.

Crews heard cries for help and crowbarred into a mobile home crumpled by the storm in Panama City, freeing a mother and daughter, both diabetics who had been trapped in a closet without insulin for two days and were on the verge of diabetic shock, rescuers said on Saturday.

Power and phone service were being slowly restored, with about 236,000 homes and businesses still without power in North Carolina, down from a peak of more than 600,000, said spokesman Keith Acree of the North Carolina Department of Public Safety.

"I didn't recognize nothing", said 25-year-old Tiffany Marie Plushnik, an evacuee who returned to a home in Sandy Creek too damaged to live in.

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"We brought all four of them and their cat to my condo", she said.

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.

Many people who evacuated the Florida Panhandle now have nowhere to work or live. The hurricane eyewall passed directly overhead, severely damaging almost every building. The elementary school, the flight line, the marina and the runways were devastated. "At this time I can't tell you how long that will take, but I'm on it", Laidlaw said. "So many people lost their homes and some people lost their lives". "So many families have lost everything", he lamented.

Boston-based Karen Clark & Company, an insurance company that produces models for catastrophes is estimating Hurricane Michael caused about $8billion in insured losses. Large oak trees toppled onto houses and cars. Four of them drowned, including James King of Dry Fork, Virginia. Authorities did not discuss the circumstances of their deaths, but their bodies have been taken to the medical examiner's office to determine the cause of death.

In addition, a firefighter was killed when a tractor-trailer rear-ended a fire engine that was at the scene of a auto accident on Interstate 295 in the Richmond area, according to the Virginia State Police. "Not all of that commercialism", said Dottie Sinclair, 57, a nurse, adding a Subway fast-food restaurant was the only commercial chain.

The rapid-moving rainfall from Michael triggered flash floods in parts of Virginia and the Carolinas, including areas threatened by swollen rivers during Hurricane Florence. Numerous buildings, particularly the shelters, were built to withstand that type of punishment and people received enough warning to plan ahead, stock up provisions and seek the safest location possible.

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.

Mishelle McPherson and her ex-husband searched for a friend's elderly mother who thought she would be OK in her small cinderblock house just 150 yards (meters) from the Gulf. "Do you think it would have floated away?"

Contributors in Florida include Associated Press writers Jay Reeves in Panama City, Brendan Farrington in St. Marks, Gary Fineout in Tallahassee, Tamara Lush in St. Petersburg, Terry Spencer in Fort Lauderdale, and Jennifer Kay and Freida Frisaro in Miami. Others include Jonathan Drew in Raleigh, North Carolina, and Seth Borenstein in Kensington, Maryland.

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