Searchers dig in the rub­ble of town ripped by Michael

USA TODAY Weekend Extra - - NEWS - Trevor Hughes

MEX­ICO BEACH, Fla. – Spe­cially trained search teams have be­gun the painstak­ing task of sift­ing through the dan­ger­ous rub­ble and de­bris left by Hur­ri­cane Michael when it de­stroyed this nor­mally pic­turesque sea­side town.

Hun­dreds of searchers poured into the city Fri­day, 48 hours af­ter the storm’s eye came ashore near here, wip­ing en­tire neigh­bor­hoods from the map, shov­ing homes off their foun­da­tions and punch­ing boats through other houses. Search team lead­ers de­clined to com­ment to a re­porter Fri­day, cit­ing the ur­gent na­ture of their work.

Searchers have brought boats and dogs to help look for any miss­ing peo­ple trapped in the rub­ble, which spills down from the land into the wa­ter in a tan­gle of toi­let seats, cas­sette tapes, plates, cur­tains and toys.

Mean­while, heavy equip­ment oper­a­tors crunched de­bris as they tried to make a path through the rub­ble so searchers could move more ef­fec­tively. As of Fri­day af­ter­noon, a crum­bled house sat in the mid­dle of U.S. High­way 98, the dou­ble-yel­low line barely vis­i­ble be­neath it. The blue skies and calm wa­ter showed no sign of Michael’s fury.

“We’re just try­ing to get the road open,” said Jake Car­den of con­trac­tor Roads Inc. of North­west Florida, as he di­rected traf­fic and watched a col­league move rub­ble with a front-end loader.

A hun­dred feet away, Kenny Faris was help­ing his sis­ter-in-law empty out her largely un­dam­aged home, which was some­how blown or floated more than 100 yards from its foun­da­tion, the deck still firmly in place. Faris said they weren’t sure how to pro­ceed, as the house now sits on some­one else’s prop­erty.

“I’ve never seen any­thing like it,” he said. “The deck’s still there.”

Just west of Mex­ico Beach, dam­age to Tyn­dall Air Force Base also ap­peared wide­spread, from the thou­sands of trees knocked down to the crum­pled build­ings and torn se­cu­rity fenc­ing. The base is home to an F-35 fighter squadron, and Air Force of­fi­cials say the base took “a di­rect hit” from the storm. They aren’t yet sure when they’ll be able to re­sume nor­mal oper­a­tions.

“Re­cov­ery teams have be­gun ini­tial as­sess­ments of the base and por­tions of base hous­ing,” Tyn­dall lead­ers said in a state­ment. “They have found wide­spread cat­a­strophic dam­age and roof dam­age to nearly ev­ery home.”

TREVOR HUGHES/USA TO­DAY

Blue skies and calm wa­ter be­lie the dam­age done by Hur­ri­cane Michael to Mex­ico Beach, Fla.

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