Storm-flat­tened town holds out sur­vivor hope

The Palm Beach Post - - BACK OF THE FRONT - By Russ Bynum and Brendan Farrington

MEX­ICO BEACH, FLA. — 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 155 mph 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 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 cell­phone ser­vice had re­turned to the dev­as­tated com­mu­nity.

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump plans to visit Florida and Georgia to­day to see dam­age.

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,” Sen. Marco Ru­bio, R-Fla., 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.”

In down­town Mar­i­anna, the fa­cades of his­toric build­ings lay in pieces on the ground across from the court­house. Jill Brax­ton stopped with a pickup truck loaded with hay, say­ing many peo­ple in ru­ral ar­eas nearby had trapped an­i­mals and were in need of sup­plies for their live­stock.

“We’re just try­ing to help some other peo­ple who may not be able to get out of their drive­ways for a cou­ple of days,” Brax­ton said. “There was a girl that had trapped horses, horses that were down, and horses that re­ally needed vet care that could not get there. There’s been an­i­mals killed.”

Some vic­tims stranded by the storm man­aged to sum­mon re­lief by us­ing logs to spell out “HELP” on the ground, of­fi­cials in Bay County, which in­cludes Mex­ico Beach, said in a Face­book post Sun­day.

Of­fi­cial said some­one from an­other county was us­ing an aerial map­ping app, no­ticed the dis­tress mes­sage and con­tacted author­i­ties.

No de­tails were re­leased on who was stranded and what sort of help was needed.

DAVID GOLDMAN / AP

Marla Wood pulls a framed piece of art out of the rub­ble of her home Sun­day in Mex­ico Beach, Fla., which en­dured se­vere Hur­ri­cane Michael dam­age.

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