Mon | Nov 12, 2018

Florida families still seek people missing from Hurricane Michael

Published:Tuesday | October 16, 2018 | 9:30 AM
In this October 11, 2018 file photo, Mishelle McPherson looks for her friend Agnes Vicari in the rubble of her home in Mexico Beach, Florida. Vicari stayed in her home during Hurricane Michael and has not been found. The storm that ravaged the Panhandle left incredible destruction, but so far getting a firm grasp on how many died is proving somewhat elusive. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File).

PANAMA CITY, Florida. (AP) — Joanne Garone Behnke has replayed every possible scenario in her mind a hundred times.

Maybe her 79-year-old aunt sought shelter at the sturdy condo nearby that withstood Hurricane Michael’s devastating winds.

Maybe she was rescued and is lying in a hospital bed somewhere. The pile of rubble that was once her Mexico Beach home is shallow, too shallow for a body to go unnoticed, Garone Behnke tells herself.

“It’s torture,” says Garone Behnke, who last talked to her aunt Aggie Vicari right before the storm hit, begging her to leave her cinderblock home.

Days after the hurricane slammed into the Florida Panhandle, people are struggling to locate friends and loved ones who haven’t been heard from. How many are missing seems to be anyone’s guess.

“I’ve been on the phone to reporters, to fire chiefs, to heads of task force from Miami, to you name it, I’ve called them. I’ve called every hospital,” Garone Behnke said Monday, then stopped to look at a text from the fire chief in Mexico Beach.

To her disappointment, it read: “We’re still working on it ... we’ll keep you posted.”

As President Donald Trump visited the devastated zone, the death toll from Michael’s march from Florida to Virginia stood at 17, and the search for victims continued.

As the hurricane closed in and more than 375,000 people were warned to evacuate, emergency authorities expressed frustration that many residents weren’t leaving.

Since the storm, many people have been rescued from the devastated zones.

Emergency officials said that because of widespread cellphone outages, others could be safe and just haven’t been able to tell friends or family.

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