Crews with backhoes and several other heavy equipment scooped up broken glass, splintered boards, chunks of asphalt and other debris in the hurricane-flattened Mexico Beach on Sunday as the mayor held out some hope for the 250 or so residents who may have made an attempt to ride out the storm.
The death toll stood at 17 from Michael’s destructive march from Florida to Virginia. As of now, just one is confirmed dead so far in this Florida Panhandle town of about 1,000 people which took a direct hit from the hurricane and its high intensity winds with a speed of 155 mph last week.
Crews worked really hard to clear the 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. He said he is very hopeful about their fate. Search and rescue people in the beach town had already combed areas with the worst damage, he added.
Cathey said that if we lose only one life, that is going to be a miracle for him.
He said that enough food and water had been brought in for the residents who remain and even some cellphone services had returned to the devastated community.
5 days after the storm, a large swath of the Panhandle was suffering, from little beach towns to the larger Panama City to rural communities which are miles from where the hurricane came ashore.
Sen. Marco Rubio said that there are a lot of inland areas, some of these poor rural counties to the north of there which have taken a devastating hit.
He said he is talking about poor people, many of them are who are older, isolated in many cases from roads, including some dirt roads that are completely cut off right now.
He added that they still haven’t been able to reach those people in a number of days.
An untold number of people across the region have their homes damaged, have no power, and don’t have the means to relocate, either to a new or temporary shelter.
As crews cleared trees and power lines, more roads were becoming passable, but traffic lights remained out and there were long lines at the very few gas stations which are open.
Florida officials evacuated around 3,000 inmates from two hurricane damaged prisons — the Gulf Correctional Institution and the Calhoun Correctional Institution. They had damage to the roof and the infrastructure which are critical for security, authorities said. However, no inmates or staff members were injured.