Responders are still trying to tally up the damage done by Hurricane Michael, including the death toll, which continues to rise.
Michael hit the south east as a Category 4 hurricane this week, with wind speeds just shy of a Category 5. According to the latest report by CNN, the death toll currently stands at 17. Five of those who passed were in Virginia, while eight were in Florida. Three people died in North Carolina, and a child in Georgia passed away as well. Experts predict that more will be pronounced dead before the rescue effort is over.
"I expect the fatality count to rise today and tomorrow as we get through the debris," said Brock Long, Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator on Friday morning.
At least four of the deaths were reportedly the result of drowning in the storm surge, while at least one stemmed from falling debris. One of the deceased was a firefighter working to rescue others.
Search teams are reportedly using trained dogs to help search for survivors or remains. The outlet showed aerial footage of coastal towns like Mexico Beach, which was nearly flattened. There, the body of an elderly man was found alone, several hundred yards from his house. They are still searching in the hopes of finding survivors who could be trapped in the piles of debris.
The rebuilding effort is expected to take a long time. Mexico Beach City Manager Tanya Castro said that the town will not be running in any way close to normal for at least 12 to 18 months.
Florida Senator Bill Nelson said that this storm left "the worst destruction that the Panhandle has seen for however long that I've been living."
"It's akin to Hurricane Andrew in 1992 where everything was leveled," he added. Nelson said that Mexico Beach in particular is facing a severe lack of resources. There is reportedly not enough food, water or shelter for the survivors who stayed in town and the evacuees who are now returning to find out what happened to their homes. He warned that "there's going to be a period of time that it's difficult to get supplies in."
One survivor, Dawn Vickers, told CNN that she had stayed in Mexico Beach and thankfully survived. However, her home and her car were both destroyed, and in the end she had no cell phone service to call for help. In desperation, she met a stranger at the smashed up remains of a gas station, and they invited her to stay in their condo, which was spared.0comments
"This has been the worst nightmare I've ever been through in my life," she declared.
Over a million people are still without electricity in the southeast, spread across seven states.