Sat | Nov 17, 2018

4 days after storm, large swath of Panhandle suffering

Published:Monday | October 15, 2018 | 12:00 AM

MEXICO BEACH, Florida (AP):

Crews with backhoes and other heavy equipment scooped up splintered boards, broken glass, chunks of asphalt and other debris in hurricane-flattened Mexico Beach on Sunday as the mayor held out hope for the 250 or so residents who may have tried to ride out the storm.

The death toll from Michael's destructive march from Florida to Virginia stood at 17, with just one confirmed death so far in this Florida Panhandle town of about 1,000 people that took a direct hit from the hurricane and its 155mph winds last week.

Crews worked to clear building debris along with the rubble from a collapsed section of the beachfront highway.

Mayor Al Cathey estimated that 250 residents stayed behind when the hurricane struck, and he said he remained hopeful about their fate. He said search-and-rescue teams in the beach town had already combed areas with the worst damage.

"If we lose only one life, to me, that's going to be a miracle," Cathey said.

He said enough food and water had been brought in for the residents who remain. Even some cell-phone service had returned to the devastated community.

Four days after the storm struck, a large swath of the Panhandle was suffering, from little beach towns to the larger Panama City to rural communities miles from where the hurricane came ashore. About 190,000 people in Florida were without electricity.

"There are a lot of inland areas, some of these poor rural counties to the north of there. These counties took a devastating hit," Senator Marco Rubio said on NBC's Meet The Press.

"And we are talking about poor people, many of them are older, miles from each other, isolated in many cases from roads, including some dirt roads that are cut off right now. We haven't been able to reach those people in a number of days."