Tensions run high in storm’s wake
Searches intensify after body found in Michael’s aftermath
MEXICO BEACH, Fla. — Rescuers intensified efforts Saturday to find survivors who might be trapped amid the ruins of a small Florida Panhandle community nearly obliterated by Hurricane Michael, where one body has already been recovered, tempers are flaring, and power could be out for weeks.
Crews with dogs went door-to-door in Mexico Beach, pushing aside debris to get inside badly damaged structures in a second wave of searches following what they described as an initial, “hasty” search of the area.
About 1,700 searchand-rescue personnel have checked 25,000 homes, Florida Gov. Rick Scott said.
Authorities say there is little doubt the death toll will rise from the storm, which made landfall Wednesday as a Category 4 hurricane with 249 km/h winds and heavy storm surge. The tally of lives lost across the South stood at 14, including the victim found in the rubble of Mexico Beach, where about 1,000 people live.
“Everything is time-consuming,” said Capt. Ignatius Carroll, of the South Florida Urban Search and Rescue task force. “You don’t want to put a rush on a thorough rescue.”
More roads were passable along the storm-ravaged coast as crews cleared downed trees and power lines, but traffic lights remained out and long lines heightened tensions at one of the area’s few open gas stations.
“I want you to get back in your vehicle and stop!” one woman shouted at a man accosting her as she tried to squeeze her car between two idling vehicles at a Panama City service station running two fuel pumps on a generator.
“You’re an idiot!” the man shouted back.
About 4,000 members of Florida’s national guard have been called up to deal with the storm, including 500 added Saturday.
A woman calms tempers between motorists as they wait for gas during a shortage in Southport, Fla., yesterday. Inset, Hurricane Michael scavengers in Panama City can consider themselves warned.